REVIEW: The Wanted – Battleground

The-Wanted-Battleground

Artist: The Wanted
Album: Battleground
Genre: Pop
Label: Island (UK)

The Wanted are, apparently, kind of a big deal. I failed to notice this until I saw a poster for this album in the window of HMV in town this morning. Well, it’s not unusual for me to have never heard of anything that’s appeared on X-Factor, but it does mean I’ve to rethink some of my notes. At first glance, they seemed to be a very acquired taste catering for a certain niche market, not number one successes throughout the region. Then again, this is the same public keeping Coldplay in business, so I shouldn’t be too surprised.

Also, the album isn’t bad. It’s just a bit sloppy and unconventional and dull. There’s a miasma of competing sounds and samples, synthesizers run amok, and immensely flavourless poppy vocals. It’s decently put together, but charmless in all its uncontrolled whimpering. It’s commercial, I suppose, is the best way of describing it. Its beats are, accordingly, never far from the frontline and inform a musical palette that’s mostly easy and vanilla. There’s nothing life-changing on show but it might get a wry bop or two out of you.

“Glad You Came” has a soft, restrained initial flavour that eventually colours itself with some oddball synth. It becomes a bit more invigorating as it goes along, with a strong beat and various samples and effects interacting lightly and playfully with one another. The singing is kept drearily generic, as though totally unaware of the kooky accompaniments to which it’s being treated. It does work well enough however; it’s quite measured and well-balanced, with none of its individual elements overpowering the other and steady pacing throughout. “Lightening” lets itself go a bit more. There’s a heightened sense of the eccentric and the sampling is far more driven and defined. The vocals also seem to find a bit more energy and conviction, particularly during the chorus, even if the lyrics themselves remain quite tender. It has a likeable and vivid sense of life, succeeding as a kind of aimless dance-y love song.

“Warzone” opens with a stark and devastating reference to cheating. To illustrate the point, they temporarily abandon the synth hijinks and bring in a steady helping of piano, emphasising that sadness abounds. However, the bubble of artifices soon bursts and coats the rain-soaked opening with a pleasingly quirky sense of immediacy. It’s also the catalyst for a more concerted wave of vocal pleading. “Last to Know” is far more promising. It bolsters its intro, building a firm and heavy foundation of sound. The vocals are still a bit listless and meandering, but the chorus is good, embracing the straight-up power ballad and introducing some dodgy organ-lite sound effects to evoke the strength and seriousness of feeling on show. It’s all very distorted and trancelike but it works in its own unusual way, the intensity of the mood mirroring the potent surge of sentiment in the lyrics.

“I’ll Be Your Strength” has the makings of a fabulous guilty pleasure. There’s a guilty, thoughtful piano soliloquy to open, the melody soft and intimate. The beat that kicks in shortly thereafter seems to derail this at first, but finds its place as the song progresses. It prevents it becoming too sappy, and grounds the track as an insidious wave of psychedelics sets in. The resurgence of rhythm in its latter stages injects some dynamism and lends it the final touch of chart gloss. “I Want It All” is another accomplished effort, as they largely abandon the hysterics for something focusing on tone and melody. The vocals are very plaintive, hinting at all kinds of whimsical despair, but suit the mood and keep things heartfelt and human. The instrumentation is kept light to let him sing the sorrow, and while it’s obviously a template version of something that’s oft-been done before, this track rings a lot truer than the others.

Further, “The Weekend” vanquishes this pervasive emotion and opens firm with a hedonistic wave of synth. It’s a headier and more obvious onslaught of sound, and immensely likeable. It’s catchy, leaves out a lot of the whining about nameless girls, and throws in plenty of concerted sampling to distract you from anything that might be irritating. “Gold Forever” is the final track, making a failed attempt at engaging and inspirational lyrics, though making excellent use of piano to add a warm and evocative conscience. It’s a bit sunnier in its simple vox/keys combo, before the sampling comes bounding in. This doesn’t entirely convince, as it doesn’t throughout the album – their inability to choose straight pop or dance irks me, as they’re not doing a particularly seamless job of combining the two. Nonetheless, they clearly have a market, and that same market will be pretty satisfied with the results proffered here.

In conclusion, this is an exquisitely unremarkable collection of mismatched tracks. It’s a bit obsequious and a bit sycophantic but all totally harmless. You’ll either love the glaring genre clash or run a mile, so give it a spin and choose your side of the fence accordingly.

SCORE: 6/10
Review written by Grace Duffy

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