A solid pop platter that's not lacking in personality.
Nick Levine 2011-11-10
They lack JLS's pecs appeal or the Bieber-ish barnets of One Direction, but The Wanted are the all-male pop combo you could toddle down the pub with. Affected or not, this ‘lad band’ shtick has served the Anglo-Irish five-piece surprisingly well: their debut album, released last year, has shifted 400,000 copies and they've already notched up five top three hits.
This follow-up set seems primed to maintain the group's forward momentum. It finds the boys bouncing between the trancey dance-pop of their recent singles – the best of which is the almost melancholy Gold Forever – and bombastic mid-tempo ballads in the mould of Ryan Tedder, OneRepublic frontman and producer of Leona Lewis' Bleeding Love. For the most part, Battleground is the pop LP equivalent of turning up at a traffic light party in a tight green T-shirt: neither subtle nor original, but it gets the job done.
Of course, it's also the second album from a successful and ambitious manufactured pop group, so that ol’ devil called ‘credibility’ inevitably rears its self-important head. Sundry band members nab writing credits on six of these tracks and there are attempts to at least peek outside the box. Lie to Me wouldn't disgrace itself on a recent Take That setlist; I Want It All recalls A1's guitar-strumming phase; and I'll Be Your Strength is a pulsing rave ballad on which Girls Aloud's producers, Xenomania, give the lads a lesson in self-restraint: once in a while, save the heavy pounding for the final minute, because sometimes it pays to work up to that explosive climax.
The result is a solid pop platter that's not lacking in personality – even if the latter does manifest itself in a smattering of lyrics clunkier than testing day at the seat belt factory. Really lads, does any likely lass want to be told "I'll make you sweat like you worked out"? The ribbing they'll get down the pub for that one will be entirely deserved.