Twisted City by Chris Singleton - album sleeve

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Entries in Xenomania (1)


Girls Aloud get me thinking

Just when you're getting over an incredibly funny quote from a rock star (see my earlier post on Noel Gallagher's Irishness), along comes another, from none other than Chris Martin:

"I love Girls Aloud. I'm obsessed with Girls Aloud. I've been trying to write them a song and I can't come up with anything good enough. They're amazing. It's the combination of extreme physical attraction and fantastic music. I think they might be the ultimate form of life."

Well I don't know what Chris Martin's missus has to say about that (if I said that I'd be in trouble with mine), and I'd stop short at calling them the ultimate form of life, but - shock! horror! - I think he actually might be onto something. The people who put that band together have been very, very, very clever: combining some of the best-looking provincial girls going with some of the best pop writers and producers around. Throw in some videos which just stop short of being soft porn and you've got a recipe for success. Actually now that I read over that, maybe that isn't that clever at all; it's bloody obvious. But it's very effective.

At this point I am sure you think I'm off my rocker regarding the pop/production bit (I'd say most red-blooded males agree with the first bit though). But let's look a little bit closer at the music. It's bloody good. Okay, so the lyrics are pretty trite ("I'm just a love machine, feeding my fantasy" anyone?) but the tunes are excellent, and the production is cutting edge. Take their track Biology, for example - it starts off as glam rock, goes a bit pop, then disco, then back to glam don't hear that kind of thing very often. It's not as good as Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody, but it employs the same kind of genre-bending tactics, and it's really refreshing to hear that kind of music in the charts. It's pop, but not as we know it Jim.

The guy who writes most of their stuff is a chap called Brian Higgins, who runs a production house called Xenomania. It's not just me that admires his writing - the Guardian's Alexis Petridis has this to say about his work:

"Listening to [Girls Aloud's second studio album] What Will The Neighbours Say?, you constantly get the impression that Higgins and Xenomania are enraptured by the possibilities of pop music..."

I don't always agree with Mr Petridis, and I'm still peeved that he didn't review my last record, but I'm with him on this one - he's spot on. On the best Girls Aloud records, you hear Higgins not playing music, but playing with it. At this point in pop/rock history there are just so many things you can pick and choose from when you're making a record...but most big-selling 'credible' acts just don't. Take Chris Martin's band for example - you don't hear any genre-bending there at all really. Or The Editors. Or Oasis. Or Damien Rice. Or, sadly these days, Radiohead. It's the same old sound, tweaked a little bit for each record, but wheeled out pretty much without fail on every occasion. Higgins, on the other hand, makes the most of the vast sonic possibilities that we now have at our disposal. Albeit sometimes in a casual and trite way - but it's always fun, and at times brilliant.

So that's why I'm enjoying Girls Aloud records. They plunder from the past. They use the latest production toys. They switch styles on a whim. The only thing is, of course, that the girls themselves don't have much to do with it; you get the feeling that Higgins really could have got any girls with decent voices to do the singing. They do a competent job, but I know plenty of female singers who can perform just as well as them.

But when pop looks and sounds this good, it seems churlish to complain.

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