One of the best pop albums of 2002 wasn't released in the U.S. If that's not dropping the ball, then what is? An assured and durable follow-up to 2001's formative One Touch, which still packed a number of singles that gave the group a great deal of success overseas, Angels With Dirty Faces is a thoroughly convincing amalgamation of the artists they've been weaned on -- from Madonna to TLC to Aaliyah -- with a strong foothold in contemporary trends. A bootleg mash-up of Adina Howard's "Freak Like Me" and Gary Numan's "Are Friends Electric" led to the group's own spin on the trick, and it landed them the top spot on the U.K. chart. Using a beefed-up arrangement of Numan's robotic new-wave tune, the Sugababes lift Howard's forthright lyrics -- somewhat sheepishly, the "pump pump" that precedes "all through the night" is subsumed in the mix -- and weave the two elements together for a powerful and immensely catchy opening to the album. At no point during the remainder of the first half does the album lose steam. The verses of "Blue" are backed by jutting electronic beats that stutter and twist, while the chorus unwraps a tempo shift carrying an unexpectedly strummy quality. "Round Round," another hit that put the group on Top of the Pops, is something Garbage would no doubt love to have in their own catalog. Apart from a couple bum moments during the second half of the album -- see "Shape," a misguided re-configuration of Sting's "Shape of My Heart," replete with a literally patched-on appearance from the man himself -- this is a pop album that offers much more depth and excitement beyond the singles.
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AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman