Noisettes in 2012 are a very different prospect to the band that first came bowling out of South London in 2006. Back in ‘06 they made their mark with a mix of thrashing guitars, indie aesthetics and Shingai Shoniwa’s enthralling stage presence and power house vocals. After a few quick stylistic switches (and correspondingly a lot more success for second album Wild Young Hearts) who knows what sort of band Noisettes are now? On third album Contact they don’t seem to have decided, and chuck genres like so much mud at the wall, in the hope that something will stick. First of all, we get strident electro pop, the kind of vehicle that has served Beth Ditto well. 80s references abound, and third track Winner comes across as a coke fuelled, disco pounding reimagine of Eye of the Tiger, complete with crunching guitar stabs and the yuppie pleasing chorus ‘I feel like a winner// I’ve got the world at my feet’. Gordon Gecko would be proud.
It’s all delivered competently- Winner’s well crafted power pop certainly deserves to be a daytime radio hit- and could have easily been the direction the album stuck with. It may not be my cuppa, but there’s a whole world out there that likes David Guetta. Things get a bit curious however when the band switch to plaintive jazz ballad Travelling Light. The track, sounding like a feather weight cast off from Chicago, belays Noisettes BRIT School musical theatre roots in an unflattering light, and ends up as tedious filler. Next up is the 50s pastiche That Girl, on which Shoniwa’s voice really shines, more Motown than Adele could ever hope. They could clearly pull off an albums worth of this sort of material, and I don’t see why they don’t… It certainly didn’t do Amy Winehouse’s career any harm. But instead, they follow with Ragtop Car, a kind of downhome blast of optimistic YES WE CAN banjo botherin’ Americana; Jessica Simpson via Croydon. It sounds like it was written for a Coke commercial. Who knows? Maybe it was.
Then sure enough its back to the generic electro beats for a few tracks, before the album closes with hollow, big throated orchestral ballad Contact. The whole project has the feel of an album put together by a focus group of industry drones. It seems that either Noisettes will try their hand at anything to get their music that oh-so-lucrative advert sync, or the record label know Shoniwa is a genuine, eccentric talent, but can’t work out WTF to do with her. Either which way this is a bit of a mess, a shame as they could doubtless do better.