Sugababes - Catfights and Spotlights
Sugababes were my favourite girl band at the start of the decade, delivering on the promise of their astounding debut One Touch with a run of fantastic singles that put them in pop's premier league. They have remained a powerful presence over two lineup changes - this album's title says it all - and scored their biggest hit last year with About You Now, so popular it gets a slowed-down reprise here. Somewhere along the way though, talent show pretenders Girls Aloud got, well, cool by teaming up with genius songwriting team Xenomania to deliver singles that were just as innovative as Freak Like Me and Push the Button. On last album Change, the 'Babes forgot to do what they do best by going all 'mature' on us so, sixth time round (seventh if you're including the greatest hits!), will Catfights see them restore some much-needed cred?
Girls, initially a sassy return to form, is now about the most annoying thing in the charts - blame that bloody advert, I s'pose. Follow-up single No Can Do is better, a modern girly take on Jackson 5 disco, and You On a Good Day is similarly playful, blending Mark Ronson horns with a Kate Nash 'everyday' relationship vibe. Needless to say, as with Girls Aloud's The Promise single, the current obsession with '60s girlbands extends here, Sunday Rain as dramatic as, say, Back to Black or Warwick Avenue. It's nice to see they can still do urban well on Side Chick, a style that Girls Aloud have never really been able (or, for that matter, even tried) to pull off. However, with a guy from Orson providing songwriting duties, there's no surprise that some bland balladry sneaks in towards the end.
Yes, there's filler and a tagged-on collaboration with Taio Cruz that just screams last-minute stab at 'street' - puh-leaze, these gals are way cooler. Nevertheless, a song like Every Heart Broken is cutting-edge pop to rival anything off Tangled Up while the girls' harmony work trounces their rivals every time. Nothing really zings like Overload or Red Dress though, limiting their crossover appeal and placing them firmly in the 'pop' pigeonhole. There's nothing wrong with that of course but, when Cheryl and co. are teaming up with Pet Shop Boys on next month's new album, it all feels a bit safe and predictable.