With influences ranging from the classic crooners to rock's most legendary outfits, it's a bit strange that the Fairbrass brothers (vocalist Richard and guitarist Fred) ended up having one of the most successful, albeit infamous, dance tracks of the 20th century (i.e.: "I'm Too Sexy"). Then again, Right Said Fred has much more depth than your average electronic or dance act. Apart from the Pet Shop Boys, there's no other dancefloor-oriented act on the scene that creates intelligent, witty, and hook-filled dance-pop like the Freds. Those who have not followed their career will be surprised to find out that I'm a Celebrity is RSF's seventh full-length studio album, but there is far more to the Freds than a clutch of fine albums. While "I'm Too Sexy" remains their calling card, they released some of the finest pop singles of the '90s and beyond. Yes, that is right, pop singles! While their songs are generally based around a dance beat, their melodies come from a side of heaven that few electronic artists ever visit.
When the boys released their For Sale album in 2006, they explored this melodic side more than they had on any of their previous releases. The album toned down the dance rhythms and concentrated on their songwriting skills to great effect. For Sale was filled to the brim with fantastic shoulda been hits including "Cry," "Obvious," and "I Love My Car." Unfortunately, the public didn't seem ready for a straight-ahead pop/rock album and, while the CD rated amongst their best, it didn't take its deserved spot near the top of the charts, and the Fairbrass brothers (along with recording/writing partner Clyde Ward) went right back into the studio to re-address the situation.
Here it is, three years later, and I'm a Celebrity brings the incessant dance rhythms back to RSF's sound, but the album does not forsake their knack for writing a classy tune. In fact, I'm a Celebrity is possibly the best distillation of the Freds' sound: crooning vocals, soaring harmonies, and the perfect blend of electronic beats and delicious acoustic guitars (the last act who successfully blended keyboards and acoustic guitars like this was New Musik back in the late '70s). From the title track straight through to the album's closer, "Cherry Cherry" (not the Neil Diamond tune), Right Said Fred offer up a fine collection of melodic gems that will certainly satisfy longtime fans and attract a new legion of admirers in search of something more than your average pop, rock, or dance tune. You see, Richard and Fred are serious about their music, yet they don't take themselves too seriously. I'm a Celebrity continues their two-decade-long trend of releasing albums that are joyous occasions. The playful "I'm a Bachelor" brings a touch of Jamaica to the Freds sound, and has more than one hook that will stick in your head for weeks. The stripped-down electronic vibe of "Yellow Metal Car" recalls the more experimental (yet melodic) '80s B-sides of acts like OMD, although the female backing vocals bring a new dimension to the song's minimalism. "Why Do I?," "This Love," and "Without Thinking" are heartfelt romantic tunes that will melt hearts worldwide, proving that the Freds are adept at fun and romance. The album's title track, "I'm a Celebrity" is the most insanely commercial (and catchy) dance track they've done in years, and the song's lyrics are biting and witty ("I binge and I diet/I vomit on the quiet/I'm a role model, you see"). "Infected" is a jaunty singalong regardless of the subject matter! "Melanie" is the album's best three minutes and 45 seconds, a perfect blend of electronic beats and power pop melodies. This could be nominated as a perfect single, but the charts aren't exactly screaming out for a great tune anymore, are they?
The album's only misstep is a cover of BTO's "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet." While not bad, it does seem a little awkward. RSF are capable of doing great cover versions (such as Lovin' Spoonful's "Daydream" and the First Edition's "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love To Town") but this time, they've done a decent reinvention of the song that might work live, but fails to excite on tape. The "remix" of "I'm Too Sexy" that is tagged on at the end of the album is fun, but non-essential. So, there you have it. Another platter of dancefloor pop from the Fairbrass brothers that proves, yet again, that they are more worthy of respect and superstardom than many of the flavor of the week acts that grace magazine covers every, er, week. Give them a spin.