The Noisettes

Contact

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AllMusic Review by

If there was any doubt that the Noisettes were committed to the polished pop makeover they gave themselves on their breakthrough album Wild Young Hearts, the 30-piece orchestra that graces Contact's intro, "Transmission Will Start," should settle the matter. If anything, the Noisettes -- now a duo of Dan Smith and Shingai Shoniwa -- sound even sleeker and slicker as they hone in on the mainstream. Not that this is a bad thing; after all, they were a bit late on the garage rock tip during the What's the Time Mr. Wolf? era, and they seem more comfortable as pop magpies, grabbing any shiny sound that catches their ears and adding it to their own music. The pool of sounds they borrow from is wider than ever on Contact, and it's a testament to Shoniwa's elastic, charismatic voice that she sounds natural in every setting that is thrown at her. She's equally at home on "Travelling Light"'s ultra-traditional piano balladry, "That Girl"'s cute Motown/girl group homage, "Ragtop Car"'s country-pop, and even "Love Power"'s dubstep leanings (that wub-wub-wub bass is the hallmark of "edgy" aspirations for pop artists in the early 2010s). Despite all this casting about, Smith and Shoniwa do return to proven territory every now and then: "Winner" is Contact's version of "Don't Upset the Rhythm," and lets Shoniwa bust out some of the vocal firepower she's kept under wraps too often since the band's debut; "Free"'s smooth soul-pop makes a strong case for the Noisettes as pretenders to Morcheeba's throne, and "Star"'s sentimentality is as sweet as it is cheesy, recalling Wild Young Hearts' title track. Even as the two develop an increasingly pop approach, they do it in ways that are quirky enough to maintain their own identity. The shuffle disco of "I Want You Back" may have been abandoned years before by Goldfrapp and Rachel Stevens, but the slide guitar gives it a Noisettes twist. "Let the Music Play" (sadly not a cover of the Shannon classic, with which Shoniwa would do an amazing job) is danceable pop as opposed to dance-pop, suggesting that the duo is aiming for a more mature audience than some of their British pop contemporaries. While it's entertaining to hear them try on so many sounds, it's not always the most cohesive listening experience. Contact is certainly a showcase for all the things the Noisettes can do well, but more focus would help define them as eclectic popsters instead of fickle ones.

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