Finally, I got to listen to Ayumi’s ninth studio album. I also got a glittery, rhinestone encrusted Ayumi logo sticker with my CD!!!! I don’t know where I’ll stick it, but it will undoubtedly serve as a symbol of my manhood. The photobook is also quite sassy.
001. “Mirror” – The marching music box stomper…a great opening to the album. Similar to “I Am…” the song starts minimally enough. However, the chorus launches into an angry assault, perhaps featuring the most direct, in-your-face styling yet. Then, before you know it, the song ends abruptly. [9/10]
002. “(Don’t) Leave me alone” – Let’s remove any doubt: This is “1 LOVE” reincarnated, Ayumi. The opening is so frustratingly similar that it’s impossible to deny any influence from her prior releases. It’s good…but I’ve heard this many times before. Many times. [7/10]
003. “Talkin’ 2 Myself” – The second single from the album, the song relies upon classic Ayumi overdriven guitar and paced anger. The lyrics are actually incredibly passionate, which is why I can’t discredit this as yet another Ayu-rock song. Yes, I know, it sounds just like the last track to most people. That’s the problem with most of her heavier songs. [8/10]
004. “Decision” – I never really played this track, though it was the B-Side to “Talkin’ 2 myself.” Again, more of the same. This song sounds SO similar to something from Secret, I just can’t figure out what yet. Again, it’s not bad per se, but the album loses it’s luster when plagued with the same songs repackaged. [7/10]
005. “GUILTY” – Hmm…Well, it’s still rock, but the introduction guitar is more something from the pages of a Junkie XL track than an Ayu one. Good! So much better. Darker, lonelier vibes without the overpowering metal riffs that often drown her emotion. Instead, this is a bit of a departure from the anger. The mood matches the song name. [10/10]
006. “Fated” – The B-Side to “GLITTER,” I always preferred this softer track. Very soft and longing. It’s quite formulaic, but it’s still classic Ayumi. [8/10]
007. “Together When…” – FINALLY. A ballad with feeling! The song sounds like it came off I Am…, which is a VERY. GOOD. THING. Call me sadistic, but the best moments in an Ayumi song are the parts where it sounds like she’s about to break (“Memorial Address”). This song is full of those moments. [10/10]
008. Marionette (prelude) – Playing along with the music box concept of the album, the song is another instrumental that grows increasingly manic and frightening as it chugs along. Picture demented jack-in-the-boxes. [9/10]
009. Marionette – Err…I’m having issue with this. It’s a beautiful song, but I keep thinking I’ve heard it before. It’s a bit epic in tone though, which is why I’m not discrediting the production. [8/10]
010. The Judgment Day – It’s Catcher In The Light…just with an organ behind it instead of pulsating dance beats. I love Catcher, but for God’s sake, is she trying? [8/10]
011. GLITTER – Ugh, fucking GLITTER. Or is it BLUE BIRD? Or Fairyland? I forget which, they all start to blend after the chanting, summery tribal music. [6/10]
012. MY ALL – I guess this would be the pop section of the album, because this marks the second song that is distinctly non-rock. And yet, it’s still cliche to me. I don’t know what’s happening…is it just me? I’m starting to feel strange. Am I crazy, or were her previous albums like this as well? I’m going to have to consult my discography. [7/10]
013. reBIRTH – A looming little instrumental. Nice and moody with that classic, icy piano that she features in so many of her tracks. Pretty and ethereal. [8/10]
014. untitled ~for her~ – I won’t lie, I was looking forward to this more than any other track. Ayumi has made it clear that this album was in dedication to a friend she lost last year, and this track was most clearly written about her. The lyrics are especially beautiful. The song is lovely and passionate. I won’t begin to talk about the ways in which it reminds me of past songs because it’s unneeded at this point. [8/10]
I love Ayumi, but I feel that she’s allowing herself to be pigeonholed into a very specific genre, rather than the eclectic selections she has offered in the past. Part of this may stem from the fact that she is no longer producing any of her music, only the lyrics. Or there may not be enough diversity amongst the producers. Either way, she is falling into a trap, and I’m finding it very difficult to listen to her new music without going “Hey, this sounds like…” I can say for sure that it never happened until “(miss} understood. Ever since then, I keep hearing the past. It may be that I haven’t been listening to her enough lately to distinguish the differences..I know that language barriers make a huge impact. Still, I’m left wanting more.
Final Grade: B-
My face is being strange today. The muscles next to my nose are spasming, causing me to involuntarily snarl for seconds at a time. I’m not sure why it’s happening, but this wouldn’t be the first time my body did something without my consent. At this point, I can tell that my co-workers are silently trying to decide if I’m trying to be “Mr. Funny” by impersonating Elvis (they don’t call me that, but they should), or if I’m just openly expressing my deep-seated hatred for them. So while I sit here disgusted (according to my face), I’ve decided I want to do a track-by-track for one of the best albums of the year.
Tangled Up, the Aloud girl’s fourth studio album was released November 13th. But if you were a
001. Call The Shots – The CD opens up with their widely popular second single off of the album. The mid-tempo chugger is arguably one of my favorites off the album. The backing track is dreamy, and the girls sing lazily about being in charge, and pheonixes, and dreams that glitter (These a few of my favorite things!). It’s a big hit in the U.K. at the moment.
002. Close to Love – Another Aloud track with lyrics to kill. Literally. “Got so close to love / I can almost taste the kill / Barely close enough / But I just can’t close the deal” The track is pure Girls Aloud, so it’s obviously perfection. Disco gloss with a crunchy rock punch, along with nonsensical lyrics about needing wood and getting all tangled up. Watch for the breakdown at the end, shooing away the would-be suitors. Fierce.
003. Sexy! No, No, No – With what sounds to be an entire radio’s stuffed into one hellacious, chugging beat, the Girls attempt to conquer this fast-paced and chaotic track. It was a warmly received first single, but it failed to generate much attention. Rightly so. The track is too much to handle. There’s no proper construction…each section of the song sounds like a new bridge. Too hard to dance to, too slow to run to…it’s difficult to place and difficult to enjoy for me.
004. Girl Overboard – HEAVEN. ON. EARTH. No doubt about it. Their songs about getting caught up in the wrong crowd and hitting rock bottom (“No Good Advice,” “Life Got Cold” and countless others) always seem to have a special place in my heart, and this is no exception. I often relate. Euro-trash snyths, and the repeated cries of “Girl Overboard / I thought I had it but
I tumbled.” This is a real mover. Too gay for commercial radio though, probably never be a single. Check out this fan video on YouTube:
005. Can’t Speak French – I must admit upon hearing the track name, I was overly excited. I was a bit too enthusiastic for this one though, as I was left wanting more. It’s a nice, swinging mid-tempo, but the lyrics outshine the production. “I can’t speak French / So I let the funky music do the talking, talking,” the girls declare. Sounds brilliant, oui? (See what I did there?), so it’s unfortunate that the song never really takes off from where it begins. Rumored to be the fourth single. I wouldn’t mind it, but there’s better to be found here sadly.
006. Black Jacks – In true Girls Aloud fashion, you couldn’t interpret these lyrics if you had an Oxford English Dictionary and the Xenomania writers tied to a chair, injected with truth serum. There’s absolutely no sense here, when the chorus comes chugging into this Pipettes-esque stormer, “There’s black jacks running down my back and I said Stop! / ‘Cause I love you, Baby.” It’s good. The best part of course would be the whole “New York nothin’, come and get stuck in” post-chorus yell.
007. Control of the Knife – Is that reggae I hear? Once again, the track title had me quite excited before I gave it a listen. Domestic violence? Count me in. Actually, the track reminds me of “Can’t Speak French.” It’s another mid-tempo, and could have easily gone down the same path. However, the track is redeemed with the fantastic horn solo, followed by the always dependable vocoder to shake things up a bit. And trust me, if you thought Black Jacks was unintelligble, the nonsensical vocoded breakdown is “Got sweet hassle, sweet talking me / got cheap babble, cheap talking free.” WHAT THE HELL DOES THAT MEAN? Pop goodness, that’s what. Third single off of the album.
008. Fling – Oh, I knew this would be classic after the very first line. “It’s just a fling baby, fling baby.” Then they all get a bit sassy with their respective lines in the electro-stomper about the various hotties and fellas that they are checkin’. It all sums up to be a glorious ode to adulterous flings and promiscuity, which is simply noble. All in good fun, the Aloud are never expected to be taken seriously. The hands-in-the-air beat makes this one particularly fun song.
009. What You Crying For – Everytime I see this one pop up, I’m always expecting Garbage’s “It’s All Over But The Crying.” This is one of the darker tracks of the album, but it’s still tame. The “You don’t care, it’s cold out there / You don’t mind, anytime” breakdown is a moment of beauty. Otherwise, this is a fairly subdued track.
010. I’m Falling - This took me a few spins to finally “get it.” At first, I was too preoccupied by the distanced effect on their voices during the chorus, but I realized how crucial it was later on. The strange video-game noise that paces the song (I’m going with the sound of a shell spinning in Mario), along with the ridiculous lyrics about…God, I couldn’t even tell you. Either Nicola has a fetish for electricity or enjoys having a man invade her in rather unconventional ways:”And I was sure that if I eva’ had a shocka’ / The same ol’ folks would say go.” Well now we know. It’s always the quiet ones, isn’t it?
011. Damn - I’ve seen other blogs refer to this as “Real Life” redux, and I’d have to agree..the beats are pretty dead on. But, just like “Real Life,” this one’s pretty good. Also care free, but it’s got a bit more of that Pipettes-crunch which is a newer concept. The song’s about the morning after a night of bad decisions: “She said ‘Damn! I lost my number and I lost my head! Now, I thought about it and I could be dead.” …I think, anyway.
012. Crocodile Tears – Finally! Some semblance of a ballad. I’m not usually one for the slow songs (takes the edge off my E-trip), but the Aloud have proved to be excellent balladiers (invented). This is really heartfelt…but the word “crocodile” still doesn’t sound natural to me. It’s probably one of the lesser used nouns in pop music today, along with “succubus.”
All in all, the album is wonderous. It takes a few listens to get where they’re at, but hey, so did Chemistry. And that’s a damn good gem. This one is too, just in different ways. Nice job, ladies.
Buy Tangled Up by Girls Aloud at Amazon UK.