Cha Cha Cha


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Cha Cha Cha Review

by Dean Carlson

Their good looks actually killed them. Being extremely young, lucky to get a big hit, and, yes, attractive, it must have been hard for a band like EMF to find anybody to take them seriously. At least anybody over 14 years old. The public snorted at the albatross-effect "Unbelievable" had on their popularity and the press relegated them to "the Take That it's okay to like." Amidst all the condescension, though, nobody really noticed that Stigma was a startlingly mature album or that Schubert Dip was actually an undervalued, idiosyncratic pop classic. These people weren't even around when EMF lost the plot and made Cha Cha Cha. So what went wrong this time? Maybe it's how -- just by listening to almost every song's slamming punk chords -- one notices that the hooks are gone and only replaced by some grating thrashing. Elsewhere, a song like "La Plage" also jumps along like a kid who listened to too many Beach Boys records on the wrong rpm or "Glass Smash Jack" (featuring perennial British comic Stephen Fry) sound as if the band was running into the walls of the studio when they forgot to pen the chorus. It's this harder edge that seems to do the most harm. Cha Cha Cha actually wouldn't be so out of place in the late '90s Limp Bizkit/Blink 182 fratboy rap-metal contingent, which, incidentally, proves not only that EMF unintentionally turned out to be ahead of American fads but that they were also suddenly desperate for good tunes. Only once does the album show off the band's true ear for hooks. The kazoo-infected "Perfect Day" -- overflowing with slaps of bass, guitar squeals, and wisecracking flutes -- is simply one of the most contagious, discordant pop songs ever put on record. And its contradictory panache only makes the rest of the album sound that much worse. Time and again, EMF tries too hard to get away from their pretty-boy image and ignore their real skills. In "Bring Me Down," James Atkin might as well have been singing about his band's own dying talent: "Many things have changed/But your absence changed it all."

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