In 2008, Scouting For Girls became the biggest selling new British band of the year. Fronted by the exuberant showman, Roy Stride, they quickly became renowned for their contagious piano-led pop songs ("She’s So Lovely", "Heartbeat", "It’s Not About You", and "Elvis Ain’t Dead"). The initial recordings of their second album, Everybody Wants To Be On TV
, were ruthlessly scrapped by the band after the Brit Awards 2008, when they decided it needed re-writing. Whole songs were dropped in Roy Stride’s mission for a collection of perfect pop songs. The resulting album, produced by Andy Green at Helioscentric Studios in East Sussex, is unshakeably bold, confident, and a genuine step up in sound that loses none of the band’s early charm, but builds and expands upon it as infectiously as only they know how to be.
The album opens on the first single, “This Ain’t A Love Song”, a powerful, soaring song, while “Famous” is Scouting For Girls at their most unashamedly uptempo, and "Take A Chance On Us" is their first torchlight anthem.
After spending their early years as a pub band, Harrow trio Scouting for Girls sold nearly a million copies of their eponymous 2008 debut, piano-bothering singer Roy Stride hogging radios with hits like She’s So Lovely and Elvis Ain’t Dead. They then scrapped their first stab at a follow-up, claiming to be in pursuit of perfection. That makes you wonder.
Their second, which continues the compositional vein of its predecessor, will again charm daytime radio programmers and sell by the lorry-load. It is full of catchy melodies and hooks. It is extraordinarily lame. Think of Keane, and remove the grit. Or think of Daniel Powter, tripling the irritation factor. These boys have nothing to say and say it in a manner that’s somehow both bland and offensive.
It opens with This Ain’t a Love Song, in which Stride is “a bloody big mess inside”. Not that you’d know from the tone, which rings hollow despite an overbearing jauntiness. Little Miss Naughty (we’re not making these titles up: they did) is something a hyperactive infant might whistle after excess Smarties. This Chim Chim Cher-ee winking and gurning continues through On the Radio and Silly Song (really, we’re not making these titles up).
Their big, clever, zeitgeist-y statement arrives with Famous, which, after a half-hearted nod to Buggles, observes that today everyone wants to be on telly, “just for being famous”. It’s reassuring that Scouting for Girls have the gumption to notice this, because nobody else in our society has, and we need our pop stars to be more perceptive and cutting than the rest of us. Just one caveat: James Dean is not, and never was, a trashy reality TV star, as the boys seem to think.
Only once do they shift tempo, for a sub-Barlow ballad, Take a Chance. And not before they’ve outdone themselves on the remarkable Posh Girls, where they tell us “Posh girls have good manners / But they go like the clappers,” adding, “There’s nothing like a little bit of class / Wrapped in a perfect arse.” This is from the nation that gave us Shakespeare. But hats off to these working class lads and their bold struggle to have their voice heard, as it's sure to be by their many fans. --Chris Roberts
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