Who: Girls Aloud, previously the most successful reality show musical group around. They are
backed by influential production powerhouse Xenomania.
Why: Because even as a self-professed pop aficionado I have never dug into their discography beyond a couple of songs. Their reputation for oddball choices that went against pop convention seems right up my alley but there was never enough time, so now to force myself to do it.
Right, yadda yadda yadda. There’s a lot to cover. I’m skipping the live albums, but will be covering the ‘new’ songs on the compilations, but even then there is a lot of musical sausage to deal with. There are probably also gonna be a lot of B-sides skipped as well, because this is a lot. In the interest of expediency and so I don’t get bored I’m gonna take a page out of Robert Christgau’s book(s) and pass out capsule reviews for everything.
Sound of The Underground 2003
Sound of The Underground – The D&B flavor firmly places this as of its time, but is that really a bad thing? The surf guitar on top of the beat feels fresh all these years later. Certified banger and what an opening statement for the group and Xenomania’s production aesthetic. A+, fight me.
No Good Advice – That guitar riff sounds straight outta Franz Ferdinand, maybe this is what led to the (failed) collaboration between them and Xenomania? Feels like this also serves as a mission statement from Girls Aloud that they are not a reality show girl group to fuck with. They said ‘damn’! B+
Some Kind of Miracle – Feels like a premonition of the directions Xenomania would take in the modern day. Almost proto-Florrie. Good but not much else to say. B-B+
All I Need (All I Don’t) – The first non-Xenomania produced track. Unfortunately also kinda meh. Nothing wrong with it really, but just kinda okay means it can’t compete. C
Life Got Cold – Wonderwall is that you? Looking it up, sorta! Everything about this places it to the early 2000s. Would not be surprised if this showed up in One Tree Hill. C(W)
Mars Attack – I am now constipated from all the cheese from this track. This is just silly. Again with the D&B, though we can blame others for it this time. B is for Bowel Blockage. [But more like a C+]
Stop – This dips in and out of weirdness which somehow makes the bridge at the two and half mark even weirder. With this, it sounds like the group is working themselves into a comfortable groove. B
Girls Allowed – A lesser group would use this as their opening salvo into the world, but here it is buried in the back half of the album. B-B+
Forever and a Night – Mariah Carey cast offs. Would not revisit. C-
Love/Hate – This album is kind of a lot to listen straight through. D&B beats are something that I always liked in small doses, but having it part of the wallpaper is a bit exhausting. So this gets a B, b-cause I am starting to lose my mind a bit.
Boogie Down Love – Oh, Marie look! They restocked the cheese platter. Don’t mind if I do. Oh, soft cheese this time around, how nouveau! And the fancy water crackers they hid earlier! My goodness, Marie, we really should get our fill before the others get to it. B
Don’t Want You Back – Was this written for a movie soundtrack? Most likely for when our plucky heroine and her beau have broken up over a misunderstanding of unlikely circumstances but before they have reconciled at The Big Event in front of everyone and over a montage of them being miserable? No?? Well they kinda deserve this. C-
White Lies – Trying to push the edge but biffing it. Britney Spears-esque production, but doesn’t quite work with so many voices. C+
Love Bomb – Oh god, Marie. Why didn’t you stop me from eating all of this cheese? You know I can’t poop right after eating so much dairy. Betty Boo and the Beatmasters are at it again. I’m gonna just cha-cha-cha to the toilet now. Was this song designed to get your parents to fall in love with Girls Aloud? It precedes Dancing With the Stars by years but feels like if it were realized today it would premiere there. C+
Everything You Ever Wanted – Miss Independent era Kelly Clarkson. C
Jump – Actually featured in a romcom. This Hi-NRG tinged song is a good fit for the group. Original: Banger. This one? Also willing to give it banger status. B+
You Freak Me Out – This a perfect song for a movie about switching places with your parent.
I am informed it is indeed from a movie about switching places with your parent. C+
Girls on Film – This doesn’t work for me as much as the other 80s cover. It doesn’t lack in bombast, but it doesn’t have the same kind of joy Jump does. C+
What Will Neighbors Say? 2004
The Show – Almost like it was kissed by an electroclash band. A good mix of flat affect and upbeat dance synths is a drift from the crap ton of D&B and guitar from their previous efforts. B
Love Machine – Girls Aloud does rockabilly and honestly it kinda works for me. Really well. I can only imagine what the initial reaction to this was since it’s, like The Show, so different. A-
I’ll Stand By You – Please go stand somewhere else. D-
Jump – See previous entry, but after I’ll Stand By You I’m willing to bump this up to A-
Wake Me Up – Remember when P!nk was all about being that pop singer with an edge instead of singer who does all sorts of aerialist shit? This feels like that C
Deadlines & Diets – It’s become clear that I seem to have a personal distaste for the slower songs so far. They seem to be geared towards romcom montages. C-
Big Brother – Great beat, odd, odd lyrics. Has this been used ironically or played completely straight in other media? BB for Big Brother
Hear Me Out – No, I’d rather not. D
Graffiti My Soul – This one’s addictive. I can 100% see how this was originally meant for Britney Spear’s In The Zone, but this feels super of them. Dated, but in an exceptionally charming way that indicates how forward thinking it tried to be? A-
Real Life – This feels like a leftover from the first album. B-
Here We Go – Oh no, is that ska?! Oh phew, no. I like this, but it feels like it’s lacking some oomph. C+ for the non-hook/non-chorus, B for the rest
Thank Me Daddy – This is filthy. I love it. B
I Say A Prayer For You & 100 Different Ways – I don’t feel the need to differentiate between these two songs. C—
Intro – I guess I have to rate this since it’s listed as a separate track? A+++
Models – Almost Sophie Ellis-Bextor-esque. This is some utterly silly music making. I love it. B+
Biology – This is like a kludge of three different songs, and it shouldn’t work but hot damn it does. Starts and ends like something that sounds like it should be at an old timey saloon and then just goes all over the place. A
Wild Horses – This is also weird. Between the choral opening and that sing-talking, this doesn’t quite layer together right. C+
See The Day – This feels juuuust on the right side of bombast and melodrama. D+/C if I’ve had a day and need some pinot gris
Watch Me Go – What part of this song did JC Chasez rightfully write? More like JC Cheese-ay. That outro makes me laugh. B
Waiting – Back to the rockabilly, but this is kinda forgeattable. Do you think they ever refilled the hors d’oeuvres, Marie? C-
Whole Lotta History – It’s better than See The Day, but that’s not saying much. C-
Long Hot Summer – Long Hot Bummer. C
Swinging London Town – A) The group has mentioned sushi a lot in their songs. Like, a lot a lot. B) This sounds like something straight off of the Einhänder soundtrack. That game ruled. That soundtrack ruled. This song rules A
It’s Magic – Feels like a cool down from the previous track. Alone, it’s fine but in comparison to what came before it pales. B
No Regrets – I regret many things. That cheese platter Marie didn’t stop me from eating. This. C-
Racey Lacey – Swinging 60’s sound and a raunchier take on the same era’s subject matter. This falls into the fun but forgetabble fluff of bonus tracks. B-
Tangled Up 2007
Call The Shots – This is lower key than some of their previous hits, but yes I think this deserved the Popjustice 20 quid prize. We seem to be edging towards the more modern Xenomania sound (does a decade+ still count as modern?), sliding into Mini Viva territory, I feel. A
Close to Love – Fun and continuing the business imagery of Call The Shots, maybe? A solid B
Sexy! No No No… – I think what’s stopping me from loving this weird kitbashed beautiful mess is that intro. Just… drags the whole thing down. The electro vibe still giving me Einhänder flavor. B, but could’ve been higher.
Girl Overboard – More like Girl Over, bored. C+.
Can’t Speak French – A slower song again, still not a fan when Girls Aloud goes this direction, but the cabaret feel of this is good. B-B+
Black Jacks – Hmmm. Kinda just forgettable C
Control of the Knife – Oh no, it’s almost ska. This is a silly beat over a, for them, understated vocal performance. C
Fling – This is the sonic equivalent of putting all of your ex’s things into a trash can and setting aflame. B
What You Crying For – A return to that D&B beat sound. It sounds a bit… quaint surrounded by all the electro around it. C+
I’m Falling – A much grungier darker sound, but it works. B
Damn – This sounds like the song you’d play at the start of your encore and wanted to get the audience hyped up with some participation. B-
Crocodile Tears – More like Croco-dull Tears. C
Mixed Up – I don’t have time for this. INELIGIBLE FOR REVIEW
The Sound of Girls Aloud: The Greatest Hits 2006
Something Kinda Ooooh – Dripping in sauce. This is a nice and aggressive track right in the Girls Aloud wheelhouse. Oooh yeahhh. A-
Money – Fun production, am really wondering why this wasn’t included on a full release. B+
I Think We’re Alone Now – Trying to dip from that Jump well once more, eh? Doesn’t work quite as well, but I can see myself getting incredibly trashed and screaming along regardless. But how much of that is on the strength of all the previous versions versus this one? B?
I Predict A Riot – I know I said I was skipping the live albums, but this is on the bonus disc so I sorta have to do it, Marie. Don’t give me that look. A fun live performance of probably the only Kaiser Chiefs song anyone rightly knows. B+
Hanging on the Telephone – Speaking of Tiffany, the production sounds like something she could’ve done. Short and sweet enough, but doesn’t compare to the Blondie version. B
Loving is Easy – Maybe it’s the sheer amount of Girls who Aloud that I’ve gone through, but this isn’t too bad as far as their slow stuff goes. Maybe because it feels even more bleak than usual. B
Singapore – The lyrical content is very much in line with Xenomania’s idiosyncrasies, as is that synth rhythm, but that’s all this has got going for it. C+
Sacred Trust – The crux of the The Bee Gees is their harmonies, and while they are indeed harmonizing, Girls Aloud also lacks the giant hair. But! I’m giving this an A+++ for the sole moxie of them releasing this song when their reality rivals tried to use it first to claim the top of the charts and failed.
Out of Control 2008
The Promise – The horns and structure on this recall the sound of girl groups of the ‘60s. A bit shocked it took this long to get to this logical point. I’m a sucker for this sound. A
The Loving Kind – I Wish by Mini Viva came out several years later, but the sound is remarkably similar. B
Rolling Back the Rivers in Time – A shoegaze-y opening followed by a banjo melody throughout the whole thing? This song is weird. B-
Love is the Key – The fuck is Ave Maria doing here. The fuck is this. A for sheer audacity, F for the fuuuuuuuck
Turn to Stone – Interesting parts to the production, but I cannot support the Gorgon agenda. C+
Untouchable – Having a pop group go full on trance is a choice, and I’m here for it. A-
Fix Me Up – Almost self-parody in sultriness and lyrical content. C+
Love is Pain – Ipso facto, pain is the key. C+
Miss You Bow Wow – Woof. C–
Revolution in the Head – And this feels like song that you play before you go off stage before the encore. C
Live in the Country – Automatic A for starting with the buzzing of flies, birds chirping, cows, lions and kittens. And then a D for D&B and then a B for barn. Because all those animals have to live somewhere.
We Wanna Party – Marie, this isn’t the Vengabus. As far as bonus tracks, this isn’t bad but it’s not outstanding. C
Something New – A giant song in terms of how much production was thrown at this, you can’t help but be cowed over. B+
On the Metro – The second song for Nicola Roberts to get a credit on for the group, after Something New. Check out her solo album Cinderella’s Eyes if you get the chance. The production on this is very Perfume-esque. Sad bops that are endlessly danceable are my jam. A-
Beautiful ‘Cause You Love Me – Wouldn’t be a Girls Aloud review from me if I didn’t complain about a ballad. D+
Every Now and Then – This is also a ‘big’ song, but it feels slight in comparison. This feels more like trend chasing than forging a new path for pop. B-
Crazy Fool – The fuzzy synth in there feels very J-pop. This has grown on me with repeated listens. B
Hoxton Heroes – This is a very scathing kiss-off song, so of course I love it. “You took some acid back in ’99/You said it blew your mind/And it helped you write rhymes/So you bought a trilby and a cheap guitar/You thought you’d be a star/It didn’t get you that far” Ya burnt B+
Memory of You – Another dip in the trance pool, the vocals feel like a channeling of Kylie Minogue. If you didn’t tell me this was a Girls Aloud track, I never would have known. B
And that’s that. Marie, fetch me an Gin Ricky, I’m parched.
In conclusion, Girls Aloud is a land of contrasts Were Girls Aloud worthy of all that praise? Hell yeah. Lots of innovation in the pop landscape, and over a decade after their debut it’s easy to see the influence they and Xenomania had on the soundscape in ways overt and minor. Their dire stuff was, of course, dire but this is all my personal taste. Feel free to roast me for being objectively wrong or toast me for being objectively right, it’s all the same to me.