No edge, no side, just pop music in excelsis – and that’s more than enough.
John Aizlewood 2012-08-31
From a name which manages to be both a naff joke and slightly creepy, to leader Roy Stride’s disappointing sideline as a writer for One Direction and Alexandra Burke, not to mention some decidedly ropey lyrics, there’s always seemed something a little too calculating about Scouting for Girls. One suspects their appetite for chart success will always prevail, whatever the costs.
But sometimes it’s necessary to shed cynicism and take a step back. It may be annoying, but shark-eyed ambition isn't a crime, and the Ruislip trio’s eponymous debut of 2007 and its follow-up of 2010, Everybody Wants to Be on TV, were as bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as perky pop music can be. Both overflowed with instantly memorable yet long-lingering pop gems, but, as if Scouting for Girls were desperate not to be seen as lightweight, they were underpinned by a pop-punk musical muscularity.
Naturally, you don’t need to be the unlikely lovechild of Nostradamus and Russell Grant to predict that album number 3 might follow roughly the same course. And so it does, but they’re honing their chiming, piano-pounding art (Without You rumbles like Bruce Hornsby’s The Way It Is) with every release.
With its hint of estuary and its easiness with an anthem, Stride’s voice is ideal for what sounds very much like an album of cheery singles, plus the 80 relatively experimental seconds of The Light Between Us. These über-optimistic, impossible-to-dislike tales take in, yes, shark-eyed ambition (these seem to detail the rise of a certain Ruislip trio), nice-ish girls, and the weather. And if there must be songs about the British summer, they might as well be as sunny as Summertime in the City.
Perhaps the key to Scouting for Girls is how they dig in and how literal they are, so Rains In L.A. has the windswept feel of a Californian freeway; Rocky Balboa is 12 rounds of pummelling melody; and Downtempo is indeed relatively down-tempo, its football chant chorus notwithstanding. There’s no edge, no side, just pop music in excelsis. Sometimes, that’s enough. With Scouting for Girls, it’s more than enough.