A solid debut of country-tinged ballads and zesty pop spoiled by an ill-advised cover.
Mike Diver 2011-06-07
Wonderland wasn’t quite what it seemed. Ruled by a quick-tempered queen with a penchant for beheadings, the fantasy land imagined by Lewis Carroll was as ruthless and violent as it was beguiling and beautiful. Likewise, perhaps, the (not-so) new part-Irish/part-English girl-band of the same name isn’t exactly what they appear to be at first. Managed by Louis Walsh and Westlife’s Kian Egan, the group’s first singles from this album, Starlight and Not a Love Song, were zesty enough to suggest there’s more to the outfit than the bland ballads associated with the pair pulling on behind-the-scenes strings. But soon enough it becomes clear that slower, country-tinged weepies are very much part of the Wonderland canon.
Need You Now, a commendable cover of Lady Antebellum’s Grammy-winning hit, is one such offering – admittedly impressively widescreen of scope, it’s nevertheless a very rudimentary exercise lyrically, all "oh woe is me for being lonely" and "crikey, it’d be so much better if I had a fella" (to paraphrase somewhat). Pop-country might seem a strange direction for a domestic group to take, but a glance at the sales figures of Taylor Swift and Sugarland qualifies Walsh’s decision to plough this particular stylistic furrow. Further excursions into lightly heartbroken territories follow, Is It Just Me? (by Adam Argyle and Dee Adam, behind hits for Melanie C and Diana Vickers respectively) the pick of the mid-album bunch, before Time Has Run Out proves rather more in line with what might be considered a generic pop ballad. A co-write by Wonderland themselves, it’s perfectly inoffensive and pleasing enough wafting around in the background, but not one of these five voices packs the power needed to elevate the track to standout status.
With that the case, it’s disappointing to find a cover of Adele’s Rolling in the Deep closing proceedings. The London singer’s powerhouse voice soars effortlessly and explores nuances unlike many a so-called diva. Wonderland, inevitably, fall short of her talents, delivering a pale and desperate version presumably included purely to sucker the curious with change to spare. It means this eponymous collection ends on a duff note – a real shame after a solid showing throughout, where only the overblown Why Here Why Now warrants erasing from one’s digital copy. Several acts of their ilk have a head-start on them, but there’s no doubt Wonderland can carve out a successful future providing they steer clear of best-left-alone covers. Off with the head of anyone who suggests another number they can’t do justice to.