Much has been made of the fact that Girls Aloud are the girl band that hipsters have permission to love, but at the end of the day it comes down to one simple truth: they're a bloody great pop act. You could argue that it's their production team, management, stylists and songwriters that provide a large portion of that ingenuity, and it'd be more than fair to do so - but having the personality and charisma to sustain a career over six years is also no mean feat these days.
'Out of Control' is their fifth studio album, and sees the quintet once again team up with Brian Higgins and Xenomania for another flurry of tasty musical morsels. Lead single and opening track The Promise erroneously suggests a change of direction: it's a glossy, funky number that owes more to Fontella Bass and The Supremes than their usual synth-driven fare. In fact, perhaps purposely, there are several songs that doff their cap at a more American sound overall; Fix Me Up's soul vibe elicits images of a hot summer's day in downtown New York, and Revolution In the Head sees the baffling adoption of a conspicuous Stateside twang in places.
That quibble aside, 'Out of Control' dispenses more of the same top-quality electroclub tunes. Miss You Bow Wow and Love Is Pain are both impossibly catchy - the latter despite Cheryl Cole's poignant lead vocal - and pop genius Neil Tennant even lends his songwriting skills to zooming, Kylie-esque The Loving Kind. There's nothing really to fault here; although some tracks are slightly anaemic at best, there's plenty of sauce, as well as some tongue-in-cheek lyrics ("I want the ducks, a lake and a family portrait / A pipe and a dog at my feet", proclaims Live In the Country). Who's responsible for the tacky artwork, though?