Noisettes Contact Review

Album. Released 2012.  

BBC Review

A likeable and accomplished third set from the London pair.

Nick Levine 2012

There's no nice way to say this: Noisettes just aren't very cool. Their second album, Wild Young Hearts, went gold back in 2009, but this follow-up hasn't attracted much buzz.

Snobbery is probably playing a part: that second album was much slicker than their 2007 debut, What's the Time Mr Wolf?, and they got their break on a TV advert. Three years ago, if their stomping single Don't Upset the Rhythm didn't make you consider a sporty Japanese hatchback, it wasn't for lacking of trying.

It could also be because Noisettes are difficult to pigeonhole. Pop music is tribal and this London-based act don't slot into one genre or scene. Since the release of their last album, they've slimmed down from a trio to a two-piece, but their tastes have become even more varied.

Contact begins with a 30-piece orchestra and ends with a stripped-down ballad on which singer Shingai Shoniwa is backed solely by Dan Smith's acoustic guitar. In between, they try out different styles like a toddler rummaging through a dressing-up box.

Inevitably, there are several attempts to match Don't Upset the Rhythm's disco thrill – and actually, they're not too shabby. Elsewhere, Noisettes flit from electro-pop (I Want You Back) to Motown (That Girl) to country (Ragtop Car) to something that belongs on the soundtrack to an 80s action movie (Never Enough).

Acid jazz and bossa nova are also on the menu. There's even a kitsch cameo by Deborah Evans-Stickland, the plummy singer from The Flying Lizards' 1979 novelty hit Money (That's What I Want).

Why do Noisettes get away with being so eclectic? Partly because their songwriting is strong, but partly because Shoniwa's smoky vocals can impose themselves on any musical setting. There's also a consistent positivity to the subject matter, though this occasionally grates. A song called Ragtop Car has a hook that sounds like a bumper sticker from said sporty Japanese hatchback: "Keep the rain behind you and the sun straight up ahead."

However, a little bit of cheese is a small price to pay for an album this likeable, accomplished and charmingly unfussed about being cool.

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