Album Review: All Saints – Red Flag4 min read
Anyone familiar with 90’s British pop music will of course know of All Saints. The foursome – Shaznay Lewis, Melanie Blatt and sisters Natalie and Nicole Appleton – erupted on the music scene in the late nineties with one of the most solid and successful debuts of the decade; one that introduced us to a string of hit singles including I Know Where It’s At, Bootie Call and Never Ever. The groups sophomore record took things into deeper mainstream and slightly Americanised pop waters with the release of Black Coffee and Pure Shores; the latter providing a staple soundtrack hit to the Leonardo DiCaprio thriller, The Beach. The girls took a break from performing together following the release of their sophomore, only to reunite in 2006 in their first comeback attempt with Studio 1. While lead single Rock Steady offered fans a reggae-infused slice of potential, the rest of the record fell flat and withered away into bargain bins not long after release, so its been a while since we have seen any movement from the All Saints camp.
Any band who opts, for whatever reason, to stay out of the limelight for a lengthy period of time is usually going to suffer in one way or another. The potential risks of pop hibernation include losing your fan-base and losing the creative flair that was once so successful for you. Many acts over the years who have attempted a comeback have been victim to either one, or both or these things. While both risks plagued the release of All Saints 3rd studio release and first attempt at a comeback in 2006 with Studio 1, lessons learned have guaranteed the girls a place back on the pop scene with their brand new collection, and a successful comeback is now in full swing for the group.
Red Flag is the groups fourth studio release and this new swing at the bat for the band is already proving to be a successful step toward reclaiming their nineties glory. With Red Flag, All Saints have come more prepared than ever and with the powerful lead single release of One Strike, a solid and well crafted and catchy opening the lid on the bands comeback and new record.
The biggest numbers come early on in the new record with One Woman Man offering fans one of the finest numbers of the entire All Saints catalogue. With the lead vocals unsurprisingly shared between Shaznay and Melanie, the track rings with conviction and the lyrics tell of a woman in a love triangle who is determined to be picked as the leading lady in her mans life. Topically, the track is both heartbreaking and foolishly optimistic at the same time, while we are treated to some of the most infectious hooks from any All Saints record to date, not to mention some of the biggest and most flawless vocals from the girls.
The sultry Summer Rain sets a contrasting tone to the first half of the record; a gentle guitar running through the number like a reverberating vein while the trip-hop drenched chorus and echoed lines toward the end of the track offer up a meaty slab of 90’s nostalgia.
Red Flag contains some of the girls most mature material to date. This Is A War highlights the battle to love who you want in the world where society and opinions beg for conformity and is one of the strongest, anthem-like numbers to represent the strength of Red Flag and the liberal views of the group. Make U Love Me is a catchy earworm that pulsates with garage-dressed beats and punchy, uniformed vocals from all four girls.
Melanie and Natalie share a tender moment at the halfway point as they inject a sentimentally shining moment on the gentle piano power ballad Who Hurt You before Puppet On A String delivers a wave of 90’s nostalgia with its overly-cheesy chorus and electro-pop instrumentation.
There is certainly space for a girl group to fill in the current market with the likes of Little Mix and Fifth Harmony being the only prominent acts currently enjoying that space and Red Flag is an album as strong as it is welcoming from a group who have recaptured the essence of their hey-day while delivering these new songs with a sense of rejuvination and maturity. Red Flag is the comeback record that we have been waiting for from this talented fourpiece since their Saints and Sinners sophomore and is hopefully just the tip of the iceberg of this new chapter in the girls collective journey.
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