Wonderland – Wonderland (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
DESCRIBING Wonderland’s cover version of Adele’s Rolling In The Deep as the best song on their debut album may seem like I’m about to damn their debut offering!
But while that cover is undeniably great, there’s also plenty more to admire on this surprisingly decent debut from the part Irish, part English quintet.
Produced with the help of a who’s who of specialists (from Mark Owen to Steve Robson), Wonderland offers an endearing showcase of the vocal prowess of Sharon Condon, Corrina Durran, Jodi Albert, Kasey Smith and Leigh Learmont.
True, it’s polished pop that sound-checks everything from Taylor Swift to The Corrs via a little Fleetwood Mac and even Abba, but it’s this mix of easy to identify styles, coupled with their telling ability to deliver a catchy melody, that makes the album better than most debuts from girl bands.
The Taylor Swift comparisons abound on former single and album opener Not A Love Song, which drops a definite country-pop twang over its chorus. But it works nonetheless.
While current single Starlight showcases sultry vocals, easygoing pop melodies and a catchy quality that underlines the album’s radio-friendly credentials.
But if these two first tracks are a little lightweight and generic, the best is yet to come from them.
The obligatory ballad, Nothing Moves Me Anymore, is well delivered, if formulaic… with the aching vocals accompanied by yearning, meaningful lyrics and a soft acoustic background. Yet while it’s working on a familiar formula, the vocals carry it through.
Need You Now carries the suspicion of a Shania Twain leaning with it, courtesy of some more country-pop elements (and strings), while the chiming melodies of In Your Arms, coupled with the fierce harmonising, carry a distinctly Abba quality that should really broaden their appeal.
Admittedly, some songs on the debut struggle to overcome the ‘filler’ definition and feel lazy by comparison to the best the LP has to offer (Is It Just Me/Why Here Why Now). Or maybe it’s just that they’re trying too hard, especially when kick-starting some songs with sombre piano chords to set the pre-ballad mood (Time Has Run Out).
But despite something of a mid-album lull, they come back strong with Emergency showcasing some nice melodies once more and a welcome retro-pop vibe, It Could Be You dropping more country-folk elements in pleasant enough fashion, and the blues-pop of Get Your Boots On tapping into a KT Tunstall vibe.
And that almost brings us to the album closer, their rousing cover of Rolling In The Deep, which adds some grit to their make-up and suggests they could go in any direction and succeed (without necessarily surpassing Adele’s brilliant original!).
Overall, then, we had more reason to be optimistic rather than glum about the emergence of yet another girl band.
Download picks: In Your Arms, Rolling In The Deep, Get Your Boots On, Emergency