The Same Difference

The Rest Is History

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Brother sister/duo Sean and Sarah Smith aka Same Difference, divided audiences like no other when they finished third in the 2007 series of The X-Factor. To some, their perma-grin, relentlessly upbeat, bubblegum style, which made S Club 7 sound like Nick Cave, was a welcome reminder of the days when pop groups weren't constantly preoccupied with chasing credibility; while to others, they were nothing more than a glorified Butlins redcoat act who got lucky. Three years after their debut album, Pop, attempted to position them as the U.K.'s answer to High School Musical, their follow-up, The Rest Is History, the first release from fledgling label PopLife, sees them ditch the cheerleader outfits, baseball jackets, and Americanized Disney sound in favor of a more mature, club-friendly direction inspired by the schlager pop of Bodies Without Organs and Alcazar. Indeed, the uber-camp "Crying at the Discoteque" trio actually turn up on the album's standout, the Dalai Lama name-checking "Karma Karma," a gloriously infectious Eurovision-style stomper whose carnival rhythms, anthemic piano chords, and soaring "woah-ohs" sounds like Shakira covering Baltimora's "Tarzan Boy" as produced by Alphabeat. The rest of the album is equally packed with stadium-sized choruses, epic key changes, and an unabashed sense of fun which, despite its Scandinavian Euro-dance influences, still manages to incorporate flashes of dancehall ("Emotion"), Cascada-ish synth pop ("Shine on Forever (Photo Frame)"), and acoustic balladry ("Broken Memories") into its 12 tracks. But The Rest Is History is inarguably at its strongest when it has one eye firmly on the dancefloor, such as on the hook-laden trance riffs of opener "Souled Out," the Stock, Aitken & Waterman-esque "Waiting for the Moment," and the funky disco guitar licks of "Best Mistake." Taking a more active role than their Simon Cowell-backed debut, the duo have also co-written five tracks alongside contributions from Topham & Twigg (Steps), Sharon Vaughan (The Wanted), and Tony Nilsson (Joe McElderry), and while the over-earnest ballad "This Is Me" unnecessarily slows down the tempo, the sparkling Hi-NRG of "Heartbeat" and the pulsating bass-led "Superstar" prove they're not the docile pop puppets that their critics have suggested. It's hard to see how The Rest Is History will fit in a chart scene dominated by electro-R&B, but whether it makes any impact or not, there's no denying it's a much-needed antidote which, refreshingly, doesn't feel the need to make any excuses for its unadulterated pure pop sound.

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