All Saints – Red Flag (Album Review)

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Musical comebacks are always a tricky business. Since Take That’s immensely successful reformation in 2005, every defunct 90’s pop group imaginable has sprung back out of obscurity, aiming to cash in on a nostalgia-fuelled society; some with more success than others. For All Saints, the risk was even greater after an unsuccessful reunion in 2006 when comeback album ‘Studio 1’ barely dented the UK top 40.

Fast forward another decade, however and All Saints have delivered an explosive, fierce and brilliant pop album which has achieved the success it deserves, reaching the top 5 of the UK album chart.

‘Red Flag’ is a bold statement from start to finish which affirms the comeback of one of the UK’s best girl groups. No doubt greatly aided by Nicole Appleton’s divorce from Liam Gallagher, it’s an album which screams girl-power but one which shows greater depth and maturity than any of the band’s previous albums. ‘One Strike‘ was right to be selected as the lead single and the album’s opener. Its pulsating beats, distorted synths and reverberating melodies make it one of the band’s best works; a triumphant pop record.

The rest of the album follows suit, abundant with meticulously programmed percussion, sweeping strings, impressive harmonies and jittery synthesizers. ‘One Woman Man‘ features a memorable string riff whilst the moody ‘Make U Love Me‘ draws upon rock influences, utilising brooding guitars and rich vocals. Then there’s ‘Summer Rain‘ – a more mature take on ‘Pure Shores‘ which works well.

The ballads on the album are not to be overlooked, however. ‘Who Hurt Who‘ is a delicate and pretty piano ballad which strips back the production and programming the rest of the album is plastered with. It’s a gorgeous moment on which the girls’ voices are really showcased.  The track is later eclipsed by the eerie and ghostly ‘Fear‘, however. Opening with fragile piano chords, tribal percussion soon steers the track in a different direction, evolving into a glistening and powerful chorus. It has The Invisible Men written all over it; their reverberating elements and minimalist production forming half of the track’s endearment.

The album only falls on its face once on the shape-shifting ‘Ratchet Behaviour‘, a bizarre dancehall-reggae track which leads to nowhere and is coated mawkishly in auto-tune. Still, the remainder of the album – three tracks which utilise tribal drums, fluttering synthesizers, hazy harmonies and butterscotch melodies – is strong enough to compensate for this ‘miss’ moment.

A powerful record, bristling with maturity, fierce harmonies and polished production.

Rating: 4/5
Highlights: ‘One Strike’, ‘Make U Love Me, ‘Who Hurt Who’, ‘Fear’, ‘Red Flag’, ‘Tribal’.

‘Red Flag’ is available now on Mercury Records.

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