British duo Ting Tings stepped into the shadows somewhat after the breakthrough of their obnoxiously catchy 2008 debut, We Started Nothing. That album, armed with several infectious singles and the then-ubiquitous summer jam "That's Not My Name," was followed up four years later by the eclectic musical patchwork of second album Sounds from Nowheresville, a study in genre exercises that aimed for the colorful versatility of Beck or the Beastie Boys but fell flat for many listeners. For third album Super Critical, the Ting Tings switched gears again, traveling to Ibiza to record the nine decidedly more refined tunes that make up the brief album. The bratty punk melodicism that made so many of the band's early singles shine takes a back seat here, showing up only in slight reflections on upbeat tracks like "Daughter" and "Only Love," each of which tending more toward slithering funky guitar ornamentation than distorted eruptions. Indeed, there's little evidence of any rock background at all, with the band embracing a more streamlined, sophisticated kind of club-friendly pop. Straightforward grooves like the R&B push of "Communication" and the bounding handclaps of "Do It Again" seem to suggest a fascination with disco templates and the funkier side of the group's songwriting. First single and standout cut "Wrong Club" is more of the same, dropping a reference to dance classic "Last Night a D.J. Saved My Life" in its lyrics and wrapping string samples and watery guitar leads around a solid, late-night beat. The tune isn't as overtly catchy as some of their most ear-grabbing work, and the decision to tone down the more jarring and cluttered elements of their sound is one that works on many of Super Critical's tracks. Though not quite as boisterous and immediate as their debut and nowhere as stylistically restless as Sounds from Nowheresville, the songs here slowly sink in and last a lot longer than anything else the band has done prior. The Ting Tings aren't quite ready to grow up and stop partying, but the maturation on Super Critical takes them out of the "overbearing pop flash in the pan" category and suggests they may have even more interesting statements ahead of them.
AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas