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Tangled Up

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Album Review

The first post-greatest hits record is a tricky proposition for any act, but particularly so for a manufactured pop group, whose shelf life seldom exceeds a few albums. Girls Aloud are no exception; indeed, they have more to live up to than most. 2006's hits package The Sound of Girls Aloud was a surprise Christmas bestseller, their first number one album in the U.K., and it included the infectious "Something Kinda Ooh!" It gave them one of the defining hits of their career. However, their last studio album, Chemistry, stalled in the charts, and now Tangled Up is the group's first to contain no well-known cover versions, the chart fortunes of their previous records having being reversed to varying degrees of success by the release of timely renditions of the Pointer Sisters' "Jump," the Pretenders' "I'll Stand by You," and Dee C. Lee's "See the Day."

Taster single "Sexy! No No No..." is one of the most daring songs they've yet released. A pounding electro-punk number with an extended, vocodered intro and a chorus which, while catchy, could hardly be described as danceable, it eased into the U.K. Top Five, but had a relatively short stay on the charts and didn't seem to bode well. However, as seems to be something of a pattern with Girls Aloud albums, second single and album opener "Call the Shots" is the real revelation. By far the most subtle single of the girls' careers, it's an elegant electro-pop ballad delivered with a restraint and maturity to rival groups of twice their age. Writing team Xenomania may have been working behind the pop scenes since long before Girls Aloud were formed, but they remain adept at crafting lyrics to suit the group, all of whom are still just in their early twenties. The line "I won't cry because I've stumbled through this far" says more about the confusion, naiveté and bruised wisdom of youth at the precipice of maturity than a thousand Britney Spears ballads.

Elsewhere, Tangled Up is a short, sharp and tight collection of some of the most exciting music in a particularly exciting career. Girls Aloud albums always come brimming with ideas, but while they could previously leave the overall collection as something of a mishmash, here they succeed as a perfectly constructed whole without becoming a tedious homogeny. More than this, though, it's a considerable artistic step forward, with the sugar rush of songs such as "Love Machine" and "Something Kinda Ooh" toned down somewhat in favor of a more aloof, knowing sexiness. Not that the Girls aren't having fun. "Close to Love" stops around two-thirds in as they yell warnings such as "Guy with the terrible hair, back off!" and "Fling" boasts a manic shoutalong chorus assuring a prospective lover that "It's just a bit of ding-a-ling baby!" Elsewhere, "Black Jacks" sounds like a lost Ace of Base classic, "I Can't Speak French" achieves the kind of effortlessly sultry cool which the Sugababes have spent a career striving for, and "Girl Overboard" is like an aggressive, relentless cousin to their previous career highlight The Show.

However, the song that — alongside "Call the Shots" — may come to define this album (and indeed may be their greatest recorded achievement to date) is closer "Crocodile Tears." It's easy to overlook the vocal accomplishments of Girls Aloud; despite their talent-show beginnings, they can be difficult to distinguish as individual singers and are often seen by critics as little more than an attractive blank canvas for the wild pop experiments of their production team. However, "Crocodile Tears" cuts through their tabloid notoriety and occasionally cartoonish images with astonishingly intelligent vocal performances. The lyrics tread a familiar path of heartbreak, but lines such as "Why on earth did you leave me?" are delivered not with anger or pain, but in a resigned, almost bored sounding whisper. And herein lies the genius of Tangled Up. Girls Aloud have grown up, and they're not shedding their clothes to prove it. They've been through the first flush of love and despair and come out the other side, as we all do. A little more bruised, a little more wise, and a lot more interesting.

Customer Reviews

Tangled Up? No. Thumbs Up? Oh Yes...

As ever, i like to do things track by track, to make sure you know what you're buying! 1. Call The Shots - Although a crazy place on the album to put it, Call The Shots is still the track you know and love. The swooping vocals and pounding backing beat give this mid tempo number a mystic feel. Still would have been better to place Sexy! No No No here though. 7/10 2. Close To Love - As much as I know I should like this song...I just can't. The Girls voices are on the same octave as the high notes in Long Hot Summer, and thats just the bottom of the vocal range. It's got a very catchy chorus, but the high voices just don't work for me. 5/10 well as a 3. Sexy! No No No... - Again, the song we all know and (those of you who don't, be ashamed) love, that has the breathtaking full on nosedive into the chorus, and from then on it doesn't apologize. The girls vocals are the backing track to this song, they work like a thread through cloth. 9/10 4. Girl Overboard - After a ballad-disguised-as-not-a-ballad, a hamster cage, and a full on explosion of every sound possible, we're backing with a Chemistry style stomper updated for the Tangled Up feel. It wouldn't sound out of place in a rave, and more worryingly, wouldn't sound out of place in Eurovison. But rest assured, if Bulgaria entered this song, they would win. 9/10 5. Can't Speak French - I'm not going to lie, I hated this track when I first heard it. Six plays later however, it's now up there with the Tangled Up greats. It's a very repetitive song, a sort of mega-mash up of Call the Shots and Whole Lotta History. But the swinging, head bopping chorus will remain in your head all day long, and even if you hated it the first time, this one is the grower. 9/10 6. Black Jacks - Popjustice said it's like Biology, but that doesn't do this song justice at all. If anything, it's reinvented music altogether, and if you want the signature song for Tangled Up, this would be it. Slow verse-chorus-shouty verse-Chorus-bridge/verse-chorus, is the format all songs should now be. It just works, and the plunge into the chorus hits all the right notes. Again, the girls full on chanting power will stick in your head. But you won't mind. Mind-blowing. 10/10 7. Control Of The Knife - And finally, the Girls do reggae. And it works...sort of. The vocoder sections after the choruses suit the song incredibly well, and the trumpet solos are frankly orgasmic. All the sections work well enough, but it doesn't go that well together. However, having said that, the song flows better than any other on the album...if that makes any sense, please tell me, because i'm sure it doesn't. Worth a listen, just to make up your mind. 7/10 8. Fling - I'm so horrified that i'm not giving this 10/10, because it deserves it, were it not so damn annoying! It's incredibly awesome on full blast to completely flip out to, the chorus flips up and down and round and round, and if I could describe it, it'd be Basement Jaxx's Oh My Gosh meets (again, their) Plug It In. But better than both. It's just that...Nadine's vocals do begin to grate after a while. But I don't hate it yet, and don't think I ever will. It's still a GA classic. 9/10 9. What You Crying For - Erm...nothing really happens in this song. Seriously, it sounds relatively samey throughout, however it does feature beautiful harmonies by Cheryl and Kimberley. However (i need to find a better word) it does faeture one of the best bridges on the album. That redeems it, and bumps it up atleast two notches. But again, this will be the one the forum will be split over. And i know which side i'm on. 4/10 10. I'm Falling - Yippee-ki-yay! Finally, something to rival Swinging London Town. As much as this is a Girls Aloud album, you just don't really notice the lack of vocals in almost half the song. But the guitars and synthesizers and electrowhizzers and goodness knows what else went into making that stunning backing track completely deserve credit. Having said that (no however!) the Girls short verses and choruses are spiky, almost splitting holes in the song...but in a way that's completely mesmerizing. Words can't describe how wonderfully the words "I'm Falling" are sung, in fact, words can't describe the song at all. Buy the album for this track alone. It's completely "blow you away" stuff. 10/10 11. Damn - Very hard to remember. However, the exciting thing about Damn is that if it were on Chemistry, it would be up there with the best on the album, which I rate highly indeed. The choruses are sung very Chemistry-esque, with nice enough verses and a good bridge, but still feels a little filler amongst such great material. 6/10 12. Crocodile Tears - I love this track. It should have been released instead of Call The Shots. I remember reading somewhere that it wouldn't make a bad James Bond theme, which is not actually a bad summary of the song. A beautiful and emotional intro is follwed by a dips-and-dives ballad, with a catchy chorus and wonderful lyrics. And the best bridge on the album, point blank. There's a long "ooh" section, which is just beautiful. I love this song. 9/10 Altogether this is a rather mixed bag of tracks, but not quality wise. Quality wise the album just slots into place in your most played CDs, it's breath-taking. Minor niggles include that there isn't enough Nicola for my liking. She's not noticeable in any songs. But that aside (and What You Crying For) this is a beautiful collection of tracks, for reasons far and wide. Download it now.

You need this album in your life!

In a world filled with indie rubbish and sloppy American import trash, Girls Aloud are a precious rarity. As Nicola puts it so brilliantly in the booklet, it's really annoying when bands start off well but go downhill from then on. Thank god then that it's been the opposite for Girls Aloud, Tangled Up proves they really do just keep on getting better. Like always their albums are consistent from start to end, filled with state-of-the-art pop tunes that fulfill all the criteria; fun, catchy and damn good to dance to too. So, let's have a look at what the gorgeous girls have treated us to this time round Call The Shots - oozes class and is accompanied by a brilliantly stylish video Close To Love - 80s synthpop dancefloor amazingness, the as usual brilliant lyrics and infectious chorus Sexy! No No No... - still my favourite Girls Aloud song, sounds like something Depeche Mode would come up with, a storming mix of rock and electro Girl Overboard - One of the album's finest highlights, euro-dance brilliance that screams 'future single' Can't Speak French - Classic Girls Aloud style genre-mash, a right funky groove with some delicious vocals Black Jacks - Tinges of Blur/Supergrass Britpop, with some remarkably indie sounding shouty raps, this one's intruiging Control Of The Knife - Reggae stylie in the vein of Chemistry's Watch Me Go, would sound awesome in the summer Fling - Some awesome guitar thrashing here with some brilliant rapped lyrics and filthy bassline, another album highlight What You Crying For - The Girls do drum n bass and it sounds awesome, get on the dancefloor! I'm Falling - More drum n bass with distorted vocals and guitar pumped over the top, this sounds like the soundtrack to some high energy Hollywood thriller. Damn - All round pop fun, a dash of eveything that makes Girls Aloud great Crocodile Tears - Beautiful mid-tempo epicness, only with Sexy..., this was written by the Girls themselves, a perfect album closer. So after all that, you get the message, the album is absolutely amazing so buy it!

Pretty Average...

Now, I'm usually one to dance to Girls Aloud music, even though some are grating after a while, but I was still really looking forward to this album. I'm not being critical of the whole album, as there are some extremely good tracks. Call the shots has to be their best single yet and Sexy! no, no, no, is pretty catchy, although grating after a while. They deserve the success, they've had with the singles released from the album. However, the rest, especially Control of the knife and Black Jacks, I'm falling and Damn lack that 'umph' factor and seem more fitted to being B-sides. By individual songs, is my advice, and don't waste your money on the whole album, which by contrast to other Girls Aloud albums is weak!

Biography

Formed: November, 2002 in England

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Despite their prefabricated formation through a television program called Popstars: The Rivals, Girls Aloud achieved both mainstream success and widespread critical acclaim in their native England. Through Popstars' process of elimination, Girls Aloud's membership amounted to Nadine Coyle, Sarah Harding, Nicola Roberts, Cheryl Cole (née Tweedy), and Kimberley Walsh. The group took shape in November 2002, and soon began a streak of Top Ten singles that broke a record for all-woman groups and remained...
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Tangled Up, Girls Aloud
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