Sunday, 6 February 2011

MUSIC REVIEW: a1 'Waiting For Daylight'

I thought I'd start a new tradition for the blog this year and review an album or two! I'm not one of these people who are really into their music - I used to be, but to be honest (and boring) I quite like the silence these days. But occasionally something will come along that I will have to sit up and pay attention to - usually when one of 'my people' release a new record (see Imogen Heap, Darren Hayes, Tori Amos, Band of Horses). But this is a bit of a turn up for the books. This is the new album from a1, who made up 'my people' back when I was a teenager. I should probably review this as my a1 alter ego, "Norwegian Waffles"...

Mark, Christian, Paul, and Ben
It's difficult to comprehend how much a1 took up my time back when I was around 15. Not only was it the music and the boys themselves, but it was the community that went with it: a1-online, the Smash Hits forums, fanfiction (actually a1 fanfiction was my life for about three years). I've met some of my closest friends through a1, and the actual irony is I never got to see them live as a foursome. I saw Ben, Christian and Mark play a small gig in a Norwegian Church in London in the days before their demise (sob) but I never got to see Paul, which makes me really sad as in hindsight he was the best one. By a mile.

Now - with the reuniting of so many bands lately - a1 have decided to get back together (still without Paul) and 'Waiting For Daylight' is their new, and fourth, album. This piece of news should have had me squeeing down the streets, but too much time has passed now for me to get overwhelmingly giddy about having them back again. In fact it was my sister who got hold of this album (it's currently only available in Norway), so she's a far better fan than I will ever be! But of course I had to have a listen. And after initial grumblings - I will get onto these - half of it is actually very good, by ex-boy band standards. A couple of the songs are excellent. It makes me smile, and I half wonder, if they do make a go of things over here in the UK, if the fangirl deep within will surface again...

Emerging from the ocean like mermen!

Here's my track by track review:

It Happens Every Day: this is one of my favourite songs on the album, and is a strong opener. I spend a lot of my time these days working on a TV show inside my head (don't ask), although I have always been deeply interested in fic songs used in the media (I'll come onto the term 'fic' in a later blog entry). This has a very 'fic' feeling to it, and I think that's mostly down to the gospel choir and dramatic keyboard. It's very catchy and even though I haaaaate the Queen-esque guitar riffs that cheapen the song (these would have to be removed if ever used in my TV show) it's a song I can easily listen to, as a part of the album or on a general playlist.

Don't Wanna Lose You Again: one of the more boring 'ballads' on the album, it's surprising their challenge to represent Norway in the Eurovision song contest last year was propelled by this song's success on the radio. It's mind-numbing, and with very cheesy lyrics - "like a star, it's so hard to reach you..." It has a distinct whiff of the Ingebrigtsen about it but is worsened by Ben's whiny voice.

In Love And I Hate It: it's this song and I hate it, I hate it, I hate it! It just doesn't make any bloody sense: 'I wanna be with you but I'm love and I hate it!" - well, go become a monk then. This is one of the songs they have actually 'released' as a single, and you can watch some of the performances of it - if you were so inclined - on YouTube. Ben pumping his hand in the air makes me want to kill things. The edit is all very 90s as well, with the song fading out to silence and then BOOM! starting back up again on a long drawn out chorus. "Sometimes I feel spineless, I can't stand up straight" - are they for real with this utter balls?

Bad Enough: another one of my favourites! It's very poppy, and it contains the phrase "crying out loud" which is amazing! But the best thing about this song by far is the way it makes me want to change all of the lyrics so I'm singing about coats. I have no idea how this happened, but I blame it on listening to it in the freezing cold weather. I'm doing quite well with my re-write, look (but don't sing): "but freezing away isn't the way, so if you want warming up, get yourself a brand new coat. Ohhh, freezing away isn't the way, if you want warming up, get yourself a brand new coat... if you want to button up. If you wanna but, if you wanna but, if you wanna button up!" Oh and, "Freezing to death...? We can find a solution!" I'm working on something to do with the line about it "going with your shoes" at the moment. Any more ideas, send them on a postcard! I bloody love this song and the way it cheers me and makes me dance with buttons.

Nothing In Common: MY FAVOURITE SONG OF THE YEAR EVAH"photographs in a cardboard BOX remind me I can't turn back the CLOCKS, so far now from the starting BLOCKS, I still don't know what this key UNLOCKS" - it's quite fun trying to guess what the next line's going to be. Probably not great from an artistic point of view, but who CARES when this could be the greatest pop song they've ever recorded. There must be CCTV cameras full of me singing and dancing like a loon at half 7 in the morning on the empty Leeds Uni campus as I walk to work. My only quibble is the ending is poor - it stops in a very measly way, compared to the fun ride that goes before it. I'm perfecting my dance for the tour, and it may involve plastic boat props. "We dance, we fall, we lose it all."

Take You Home: this is a very, very funny one because initially I hated it: out of the whole album it's probably the most dated, and the lyrics are incredibly cheesy: who sings about a radio anymore? Lolly? It also weirdly makes me think of a zombie apocalypse, with the line "and it's safe to go, I heard it on the radio"(oh!-oh!-oh-oh! - gotta love the Mark Read). I really did hate this at first but it's grown on me, alarmingly. It has the ability to cheer me up no end on a dreary morning. The music is great, and it's so upbeat, so very a1. In fact this is how I feel about most of the album: the lyrics are stuck in the 90s, but the music manages to be very catchy and often drives the song. Take You Home is a prime example of that.

Six Feet Under: wooooooo another favourite, it's the toothbrush song! It's an amazing electronic extravaganza - I actually love Ben's high pitched squeal on this, even the echoey 'ohs' of the instrumental middle. The potential for dancing with a toothbrush with choreographed moves in this song is enormous. It kind of feels like a1, and then it feels like nothing else they've ever done before. I love it, and hate only that it's criminally short. And needs a punchier ending.

Good Things Bad People: we don't talk about this song. It's hideous. Every part of it. Worst thing they've ever done, and the most pointless bag of nonsense I've ever heard. How they can follow up a delicious slice of pop with this drivel is beyond me. NEXT!

Perfect Disaster: for me this is the 'forgotten' song on the album, but not necessarily bad. When I was first listening to the album and assessing every song for its good and bad merits, this is the one song where I physically missed Paul. There's one part of the song which would have been perfect for his voice, and sounds wrong hearing Ben. There are other parts where it has the potential to be amazing but then the lyrics and rigid rhyming structure let it down. Better off as a Christian solo single.

The Life That Could Have Been: not classically a ballad but this falls into the 'love song' category. It's a proper story song, and with its lovely music and shifts in tone and vocals it's one of my absolute favourites on the album (even though I don't want to imagine what the child I had with Ben Adams would look like *shudder*) I love the run into the section where the female voice comes in (even though it's Ben girlf, ugh) - she has a very light, pretty voice. There's so much that could be done with the dramatic staging of this song, and the storyline for the video. I wouldn't go so far to say it's a fic song, but it's definitely my soft spot on the album.

Out There: some of the lyrics on this album are very dated, but some of the ones featured here are old fashioned to the point of archaic findings: "cut the cord and shoot the breeze*" - WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?! Despite all the wordy nonsense it's actually a lovely little song, even with the unflattering doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-do-do-do-doo-doo bits that make you want to dance like it's the 60s. It's the pick yourself up, plenty more fish in the sea song that has a place on every 90s boyband portfolio.

*after reading American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld I now know what this means. "What were you guys talking about?" "Oh nothing much, just shooting the breeze." et, voila. Cut the cord I'm just at a loss with, though. Babies?

Waiting For Daylight: the big ballad and namesake of the album. I just don't buy into this - I can't honestly believe this is a real emotion/experience that one of them have gone through, therefore it lacks conviction and emotional vulnerability. And it's that bloody rhyming again - "there's no use in crying, there's no point denying..." ugh. And just when you think the blandness has finished they stick a two minute instrumental onto the end of it like it's a bloody epic. NO. An epic is a story, an epic is a Darren Hayes song about loving someone and then travelling on a plane to go and see them and they've gone. This is just mush. Although the instrumental is beautiful and it's the best that birds at the end when daylight comes? Get them a Grammy!

You can buy Waiting For Daylight here, and I think the price conversion from euros is pretty favourable. For a1, anyway. And you can see them live at a Norwegian city near you on the listings here. Expect to see them in the UK soon, and that person waving a toothbrush around near the stage? That'd be me.

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