Friday, September 29, 2006

Turn the radio on and play our favorite song

a1's third album, Make It Good, would be their final one; after releasing it (and a seven-track mini-album in the U.S.) in 2002, the group broke up, though a greatest hits album was released in 2004. That's really a shame, because their third album was really excellent; though it didn't have songs with the exuberance of "Summertime Of Our Lives" or as dance-friendly pure pop as "Same Old Brand New You," their ability to create good music was in full display. Guitars were definitely more prominent on Make It Good than they had been on other albums, but they were generally acoustic and strummy--never overpowering, but providing a solid basis overtop of which (or intermixed with) the boys' melodies could work.

Caught In The Middle--the album's lead single. Probably mid-tempo, but it's difficult to categorize, because there are several different elements taking place at once. The chorus is catchy, but in a way that slowly worms its way inside your brain, not that knocks you over the head with its insistence. It charted really well (#2), which might have given you reason to think the band would make it through at least as many singles as they did for The A-List; that wasn't the case, which was unfortunate--the album is really packed full of good songs, though generally in a similar style to the singles (so if you don't like those, there's a good chance you won't like the album).

Make It Good--the album's second single, which, though it charted at a respectable #11, received a1's lowest ever chart ranking. It's a little slower than "Caught In The Middle," with a few more ballad elements, though I still wouldn't call it a ballad (the album does have some excellent ballads, though). Smooth and guitar-strummy--pretty, in a way, really. That prettiness and smoothness is most on display during the repeated "when you're weary" bit and the lifting middle 8, but the chorus is no less good for adopting a more powerful approach.

This Ain't What Love Is About--faster and with a catchy chorus, with the backing piano adding a nice touch--it, as well as the music overall, somehow manages to create an impression of circular or cyclical motion, which fits nicely with the lyrics "round and round". The entire album represents what critics probably called a "maturation" of a1's sound and, though it doesn't exactly lend itself to dance routines, that "maturation" has luckily not lead to boring music--it's lead to excellent music--music which uses guitars in one of the best possible ways they can be used: not overpowering voices, but simply there, present, used to enhance the song but not be what the song is about. You're not about to forget that they're there, but it's not about Busted-esque guitar riffs; as much as I've used the word in this post, "strumminess" really is the right word to describe it.

Do You Remember--whistling! And use of a repeated non-word syllable ("doo")! More mid/up-tempo music, with a nice strong chorus (the verses are great, too). Don't let the shortness of this description fool you--it's just as good as any of the other songs posted today.

There are so many good songs on the album that choosing which ones to post was really difficult--"Isn't It Cheap," "Make It Through The Night," "When I'm Missing You," "If I Can't Have You," and more are all of similar quality to the songs I ended up choosing and there's a very good chance they'll appear here at some point in the future. The album is definitely worth purchasing--some of the songs manage to achieve a sort of transcendence, in a way; you can buy it here (physically).

Next up: a1 B-sides (including remixes).


Paul said...

this bought back lots of memories - i really liked this album and felt that this and BBMak were a little bit ahead of their time with their use of guitars. Fast forward a little bit and mcfly, busted et al are all making it big....

Poster Girl said...

It's a shame, isn't it? I love the sort of bouncing of the walls style of guitar music that Busted and McFly did/do, but the a1 and BBMak kind is so pretty and smooth.

On another BBMak note, I can't help hearing Jesse McCartney's "Tell Her" (from Right Where You Want Me) without thinking that, though it sounds musically nothing like it, he stole some of the emotion and ideas--and even bits of lyrics--from BBMak's "Next Time."
From the choruses:
"If you see my girl
Just tell her i miss her smile...
Tell her I love her"

"The next time you see my girl
Won't you tell her I love her"

It sounds like I have a better case when you listen, I swear...or maybe it doesn't :)

J'ason D'luv said...

Ooh, I had the single for "Caught In The Middle," which my pal Mr Brady sent over to me from Angleterre. I had no idea "Make It Good" flopped that bad... #11 in England is like the kiss of death.

Poster Girl said...

It was really a huge drop, wasn't it? Maybe people just heard the guitars and thought it was the same song? I wasn't paying attention at the time, so I don't know what actually happened; Wikipedia says one of them decided to leave the group and then they split up, but it wouldn't surprise me if their breakup really had to do with the single's placing.

For the sake of Matt Willis, who I continue to support for reasons unfathomable to many :) , I hope #11 doesn't have to be the kiss of death!