Like The Fall, Britain’s greatest manufactured music hall turn since The Sex Pistols exist somewhere between cabaret and performance art. The trick with Girls Aloud, however, is to use the very ordinariness of Nadine, Kimberley, Cheryl, Sarah and Nicola to flaunt the post-modernism gifted them by songwriting production team Xenomania. How else could half a century’s worth of pop hooks be condensed into an hour-long spectacle lapped up by a day-glo alliance of kindergarten disco, gay mardi gras and the biggest hen party on the planet?
Replicating a stripped down version of this year’s tour to promote their fourth (!) album, Tangled Up, Girls Aloud shimmy onto a minimalist white set clad in dominatrix apparel that contradicts the opening Sexy! No, No, No… They keep this up through the twang of Sound of The Underground and Close To Love, which sounds like a mash-up of Sub Sub’s Ain’t No Love and Wham!’s Young Guns Go For It with added rap oomph.
One sparkly outfit change later, the airbrushed sheen of Biology, still Xenomania’s finest four-chorus construction, sounds looser and less studied than the knowingness that renders most of the covers - I’ll Stand By You, Jump and Walk This Way – unnecessary. Their version of Robyn’s 2007 hit, With Every Heartbeat, however, chimes perfectly with the current wave of chicken-in-a-basket Brit-soul divas. The retro stylings of Salt-n-Pepa’s Push It similarly fits in seamlessly with Xenomania’s sublime Call The Shots. Watching the well-drilled Girls Aloud machine move in Stepfordian unison, it could be any five girls next door with stars in their eyes up there. The variety show curtain call that ends the night shows exactly why it isn’t.
The Herald, July 28th 2008