I follow a fair number of Twitter accounts based in England, so things that trend in that country tend to be highlighted for me. Two weekends ago, Sarah Harding was trending, and since I had never heard of her, I clicked to see why. Sadly, she passed away from cancer at the horribly young age of 39. Learning why her death got so much attention sent me down a bit of a Wikipedia rabbit hole.
For non-Brits, the name Girls Aloud means, probably, nothing. In their native land, however, this five-member girl group, including Sarah Harding, were massive in the 2000s, with a run of uninterrupted top 10 hits from 2002 to 2009. They never charted on this side of the Atlantic, which, coming not long after the Spice Girls ruled the world, surprised me a bit. Since two of my sweet spots are “band I’ve never heard of” and “female-centred pop”, yeah, I was absolutely going to give this a listen. Their best-reviewed record was “Tangled Up”, so why waste time on the chaff when someone had already directed me to the spot at the table where the bread is waiting.
Maybe they just came along a bit too late for North America, but they were so, so much better than the Spice Girls, and deserved as much success, at least based on this record. The first listen through only a few tracks stood out, but when I gave it a spin while doing some cardio on my stationary bike, without any distractions beyond my legs swearing at me, I was able to get past the glossy production and sameness of the voices to hear a fantastic record. A lot of this has a sped-up ‘60s feel, as if Phil Spector found another gear in all the craziness that eventually took over his life, especially in the propulsive beat of “Black Jacks” and the breezily sexy “Can’t Speak French”. Other tunes that stand out are the electro ska of “Control of the Knife” and faux rocker distortion of “Fling”. “Call the Shots” is a techno dance track, and the record ends with the bouncily hypnotic “Crocodile Tears”. There is really no filler on this album – every track has something to offer.
I’ve listened to this a half dozen times over the past two weeks – it’s great in the car – and the record always leaves me feeling happy. Of course, Spotify is now trying to feed me, so I’ve heard a few of their other songs, with standouts being “Love Machine” and “The Promise”, which won a Brit Award the year it came out over such amateurs as Coldplay and Adele. “Girls Aloud World” doesn’t roll off the tongue like ”Spice World” did, but it’s a much better place to have working hearing.