tremble clef

Monday, December 05, 2005

Girls Aloud, "Wild Horses" (2005)

For a few days, I was afraid that Girls Aloud had disappeared up their own backsides. They're very comely backsides, to be sure, but still, it was worrying.

Because the first few times I played Chemistry, which gets its official release today, I was a little dubious. The songs are very clever, as you would expect of Xenomania productions -- Multiple choruses! Sonic experiments! Bridges to nowhere! A prickly hedgehog in the middle eight! -- but after a few listens, I wasn't sure there was much there there. It sounded fantastic, like repeated stabs of adrenaline-filled syringes to the heart, but without some traditional songcraft anchoring the sound, I found myself unable to remember much of the album after the iPod stopped playing. It's an album, I thought, to which you sing along when it's on, but not something that you hum on your own.

But then it clicked. It took a week, and -- who knew? -- turning the volume up, but a few days ago, while waiting for the bus, I suddenly knew every note and could remember the complicated structure of each song. That's possibly a slight exaggeration, but when my bus came and it was fuller than I liked, I was happy to let it go by and wait for the next one. I'm still not sure I like "It's Magic," and the most conventional number remains my favorite ("Whole Lotta History"), but the album as a whole now sounds very, very good and durable. And with "Racey Lacey," about a girl who's a "Ph.D. with her legs apart," it's like the Aloud know me.

Chemistry is still an album that's mostly carried along by the force of the Girls' personalities -- in this, it's the flipside of Come And Get It, on which the songs drag Rachel along for the ride -- but what a force. At points it seems as if the Aloud themselves can hardly stand it.

There's a fantastic moment on "Wild Horses" when this is clearest. The song is already vaguely famous as The One On Which The Girls Make Train Noises (as well as The One That Starts With The Weird Christmas Caroling), but the brilliant thing is that they only eventually become train noises. After the opening choirgirl bit, we go straight into the chorus, of which the first two lines are: "It's taken a long time (woo-woo!)/Wild horses wouldn't take me back to you (woo-woo!)" At this point, the "woo-woo" bit is sung in a muted way, and in a fairly low key. It might as well be a perfunctory backing vocal bit, no more than an "ah-ah" or a "doo-doo." (Heh. "Doo-doo.")

But then the next line of the lyric hits: "Get out of town and take your lazy dog with you!/Your train is running late and overdue!" And, suddenly, the backing vocals shoot up a key and in volume, as if newly and delightfully giddy: "WOO-WOO!" What I love about this is the way a prosiac, run-of-the-mill backing bit -- a mere "woo-woo" -- practically gets goaded, by the steamrolling beat and the inspired lyric about the overdue train, into aping the noise of a train whistle. The chorus isn't just "infectious," but performs the act of being infected. In moments like this, it feels like the Girls are themselves having fun, getting carried away, and so it would surely be churlish if we didn't join in. (Wait for it.) (WOO-WOO!)

4 Comments:

  • A brilliant -- "prickly hedgehog in the middle eight" is worthy of Miss Alli -- second step in Wissenschaft der Background Vocals. (A second step, because I think it was Popjustice who earlier wrote that "Biology" was all about the background vocals.)

    Now if only Xenomania had realized that the woo-woo's should build throughout the entire song, which each chorus being more trainlike than the previous chorus'.

    By Anonymous esque, at 10:00 PM  

  • Yes, I think PJ pointed out that the first few hundred times you listen to "Biology," you don't hear the faint "wooo-ooos" that are in the background of...all the parts that aren't the bluesy part. And they're right.

    PS: That was also a really subtle and nice way to point out that it's not "middle eighth, heh.

    By Blogger Brittle, at 11:17 PM  

  • But what is your take on Biology?
    Since i listened that track more than a few thousand times, and memorized GA's dance on top of the pops (easy since they dont seem to be very good dancer), I can declare i am their #12 fan in HK. Too bad their album and Rachel's doesnt seem to get released here...

    By Anonymous Arnault, at 3:42 PM  

  • I like "Biology" quite a lot -- the part when we finally go into the chorus is wonderful -- but I don't necessarily think it's the best single this year, as some are claiming, or the best GA song ever. But it's very, very good.

    I think with your dancing you may be a bit higher than #12.

    By Blogger Brittle, at 3:47 PM  

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