S Club / S Club 7

Seeing Double

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Their first release since the departure of Paul Cattermole, Seeing Double was intended to show that the all-singing, all-dancing pop outfit S Club (who had since, understandably, dropped the "7" from their name) could survive with one less member, and reign supreme over their increasingly popular pre-teen spin-off, S Club Juniors. Instead, it proved to be their swan song, as the latter's debut rather embarrassingly peaked 12 places higher, while "Alive" became their first lead single to miss the Top Two, suggesting their split six months later may have been about six months too late. However, while there are a couple of lazy attempts to restore former glories -- such as the aforementioned "Alive," whose funky rhythms, swirling strings, and flashes of vocoder echo the watered-down Studio 54 vibes of chart-topper Don't Stop Movin', and the group's co-written, schmaltzy, sub-Disney, orchestral ballad "Straight for the Heart" -- its rather generous 14 tracks in fact provide the most mature and adventurous album of their admittedly brief four-year career. The Cathy Dennis-penned "Who Do You Think You Are" and the sci-fi inspired "Gangsta Love" are convincing forays into Liberty X-esque 2-step garage territory, although the latter's "street talk" isn't fooling anybody, the elasticated synths and sparse hypnotic beats of "Dance" recall the stylish robotic electro of Madonna's "Music," while there are rare solo performances from Hannah on the slinky disco of "Hey Kitty Kitty," of Tina on the flamenco-tinged R&B of "Secret Love," and Jon on the laid-back slow jam "In Too Deep." Without anything as infectious as "Reach," as anthemic as "S Club Party," or as melodic as "Never Had a Dream Come True," it's not difficult to see why their career ended with a fizzle and not a bang, but compensating for the lack of immediate pure pop hits, Seeing Double is a surprisingly grown-up affair which suggests the original S Clubbers still had more to offer.

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