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Not perfect by any means but certainly far more consistent than its patchy predecessor
Phil Udell, 13 Nov 2003
Hey girls, what kept you? It’s been a mere fourteen months since the so-so Angels With Dirty Faces, yet here comes album number three, which, given how long these things generally take, means that they must have recorded them virtually back to back, Matrix style. The similarities are clear, thanks mainly to the same production and writing teams, but there is one crucial difference: Three is much, much better. Not perfect by any means but certainly far more consistent than its patchy predecessor. It certainly hits the ground running with a brace of excellent tracks. ‘Hole In The Head’, with its looping ska rhythms, sounds better with each listen while ‘Whatever Makes You Happy’ looks to reprise the edginess of ‘Freak Like Me’ and succeeds admirably. ‘Caught In A Moment’ is an elegant ballad, the sort of thing that so many of their catty competitors try to pull off but usually manage to balls up completely. ‘Situation’s Heavy’, meanwhile, is just fantastic. Strangely reminiscent of debut single ‘Overload’, it features the first of several top class vocal performances and sees the trio starting to imprint their own personalities on proceedings.
The latter is admittedly still something of a problem, as is the feeling that too much of their music is being made by committees of faceless backroom technicians – many of the tracks still features ridiculous lists of writing credits. On occasion the whole lot of them seem to be trying just a little too hard – ‘Twisted’ and ‘In The Middle’ are both contrived attempts at urban r’n’b and the much vaunted Linda Perry contribution is quite awful – but for every miss there are two or three hits. ‘Conversation’s Over’ swoops its way to an infectious chorus and another fine vocal harmony, ‘We Could Have It All’ puts them with a ‘real’ band with intriguing results and ‘Buster’ is a more convincing r’n’b excursion, complete with a strange but effective opera sample. The mere fact that they can take a workaday Diane Warren big radio number (‘Too Lost In You’) and turn it into something genuinely lovely speaks volumes on how far they’ve come. Where they could go next is hinted at, not least by the closing ‘Maya’, a haunting, otherworldly electro ballad that honestly stops you in your tracks, simply light years ahead of what the rest of the CD:UK crowd are coming up with.
If Three’s aim was to keep the momentum going then its job is done. It also proves that the Sugababes can actually be as good as we want them to be. Perhaps now they’ll take a little while longer to ponder their next move because, if they get it right, then it could be the most important of their lives.