McFly - Above The Noise
Review by Jack Foley
MCFLY have done the unthinkable… they’ve delivered a good album! Above The Noise, their belated follow-up to Radio:ACTIVE is a huge amount of fun to listen to and one of the better pop albums I’ve heard this year.
Written and recorded largely in Atlanta with producer Dallas Austin, the LP takes a self-consciously eclectic approach to its song-writing… one that’s mindful of retaining the boy band’s position at the top of the pop pile, but one that shows more ambition, more creativity and more diversity than all of their previous albums combined.
There’s synth pop, ‘80s references, Prince and Michael Jackson nods, as well as the pop-rock that helped to define the band in their formative years – only with a more mature sheen. Who knew they had it in them?
Admittedly, lyrically it’s still for the less demanding as the sentiments are pretty sweet and universal. But given that they come wrapped in such appealing production values, it’s easy to forgive them such a minor transgression on this occasion.
The album, which took two years to deliver, pretty much grabs your attention from the outset… a futuristic computer generated voice ushering in the foot-stomping electro-rock of opening blast End Of The World, which even dares to drop some Jeff Wayne/War of the Worlds elements.
The euphoric, synth-charged former single Party Girl follows, with thumping disco beats and shameless “who whoa”-ing to whip listeners into a disco frenzy, before even adding some Prince like vocals along the way. It’s actually one of the weaker moments given how blatantly it wears it chart aspirations on its sleeve (but it’s already done the trick in terms of winning back their fan-base).
Fortunately, they don’t dwell on such throwaway moments for too long, with If U C Kate underlining how much they like Prince, and Shine A Light showing what can be achieved when they fuse pop-rock with dance-pop and combine vocals with Taio Cruz (arguably the best offering either of these two acts have had in the charts for some time!).
Even ballad moments strike the right chord, with I’ll Be Your Man also borrowing from the smooth R’n’B of classic Prince and underlining just how much growing up these boys have done in recent years. Where once such romantic leanings generated chuckles given their youth, there’s a maturity to the crooning that’s hitherto been missing.
The album continues to impress with the likes of Nowhere Left To Run, which builds from thundering electro to arms in the air techno, and I Need A Woman, which drops a cute, classic guitar riff, some finger-clicks and a vibe that’s more akin to the sweet ‘60s soul of The Drifters. It’s a highlight.
That’s The Truth is another of the album’s cheesier moments, when the pop tendencies once again take over in a Take That kind of way, but the chorus is suitably emphatic and satisfying, while Take Me There trades piano and disco beats with some falsetto flourishes that, again, just about overcome the less impressive pop aspects.
The album then draws to a close with the smooth, falsetto soul of This Song, which somehow manages to sound slick and appealing in spite of more cheesy lyrics (“somewhere in the world, someone’s making love to this song right now…”), and the strings and synths drenched Foolish, which wraps things up in breezy, foot-tapping form.
And so McFly have delivered the first genuinely memorable album of their career. Let’s hope it’s just the beginning of a new era for them!
Download picks: If U C Kate, Shine A Light, I’ll Be Your Man, I Need A Woman, This Song