Prior to the album release, the biggest identifier for Neon Jungle was probably being described as "the girl band that ISN'T Little Mix. You know, the other one…" The talented quartet should see all that change now, as Welcome To The Jungle has managed to travel under the radar to quietly become one of the best pop albums of the year.
You've probably heard one or all of their singles at some point in the last 10 months, since "Trouble" was released last September and breathed some fresh air into the stagnant girl-group scene. Barely two and a half minutes long, it was Girls Aloud On Steroids, a manic little floor-filler, and they followed it up perfectly with "Braveheart", a sexy little number you won't be able stop your body from reacting to. Next up was the album's namesake, which slowed things down significantly to show off the girl's not insignificant vocal authority during the verses, only for things to kick off all over again during the "La La La LA" verses. Then we had "Louder", their first ballad-y single, but not a total snoozefest, more in common with Demi Lovato's "Skyscraper" or Sia's "Chandalier", with the shout-along chorus. And that's the first four tracks of the album right there, so what about the remaining six?
Thankfully it's mostly more good news! "Bad Man" is something Rihanna would release and have it be an instant worldwide smash, with its heavy bass riddims and swaggery-as-hell lyrics ("Yeah, I got that body for days…"), expect this to be a future single. "So Alive" wears its J-Pop influences on its sleeves, complete with Asian back-up vocals and 8-bit video game sound effects, and is the aural equivalent of pure joy.
Down the other end of the tempo meter, upcoming singer-songwriter BANKS provides the girls with the haunting track "Waiting Game", a chilling little ode to the power of politics within every relationship. Album closer "Fool Me" doesn't make for a memorable closing track, but is perfectly acceptable self-empowerment stuff. "Can't Stop The Love" features the album's only contributing artist – the profoundly silly named Snob Scrilla – and is mostly forgettable, as is bland love song "Sleepless In London".
Still though, for a pop album, that's a pretty stellar ratio of killer to filler, which continues on into the Deluxe Edition with the A*M*E-written "Future X Girl" and MNEK-produced "London Rain" somehow not making it on to the main set, despite both being pretty great electro-R'n'B bangers. They even cover Hozier's played-to-death "Take Me To Church" and manage to find new depths and peaks therein. All in all, this is the album that the newly reformed Original Sugababes are probably wishing they've released.
Review by Rory Cashin | FOUR STARS