The Noisettes - ContactThere is only one approach that seems fully appropriate for listening to anything by The Noisettes. First you must get in your car, and then fully commit to pretending it’s a bright green Mazda. Next, pootle round the streets shout-whispering “Zoom zoom” at randomly spaced intervals, and blare your chosen music at full volume. True to my word, I conducted myself in this manner to review The Noisettes’ third album, ‘Contact’ - entirely for intellectual reasons, I might add. Whizzing round annoying passers-by with blasting pop music turned into an entirely pleasant afternoon.
Returning to the land of Being Sensible now, it’s quite clear that The Noisettes - this new album being no exception - make very fun music. There’s a wealth of musical influence scattered liberally throughout ‘Contact’, too. You only have to listen out for the pounding bluesy piano riff and scat-infused “dah-dee-dahs’ of ‘Final Call’ to hear that this is an intelligent enough thing, despite the horrifying first impression that is given off by the hideous intercom intro. The wonderfully sultry ballad ‘Travelling Light’ owes as much to Nina Simone and Etta James as it does to Shingai Shoniwa’s deliciously silky vocal tone. Then, as soon as some promise starts to emerge, the production gets piled on like it’s about to go out of fashion. An annoying ‘retro’ attempt at dubstep inspired beats, some strangely pitched synth that drowns out the beautiful tone of Shoniwa’s naked voice that dominated on big single ‘Never Forget You’, it all combines to turn ‘Travelling Light’ from a vulnerable piece to Just Another Pop Ballad. Unlike many of the pop singers milling about, The Noisettes’ frontwoman has a stunning voice, so it’s a huge shame that so frequently on ‘Contact’, it just isn’t allowed to shine.
Back in the old days before that advert popularised ‘Don’t Upset The Rhythm’ Rolling Stone magazine called this lot rowdy. Yes, rowdy. It’s hard to believe Shingai Shoniwa, playing sweetness-and-light pop diva on tracks like ‘Let The Music Play’ and ‘Winner’ would ever take part in such raucous behaviour, but it’s true, in the old days Noisettes shows were renowned for getting very messy. The Noisettes - unlike many bands that like to harp on about influence - don’t seem to intellectualise their musical aspirations. In this case, that might prove a bad thing- maybe if The Noisettes wore their love of music on their sleeve rather than worrying about radio-friendly hooks, this would be a more emotional, far braver album. Driving playlist? Fine. Party music? Definitely. One of those rare, beautiful, heart-wrenching albums that moves you for reasons you don’t even fully understand? Never.
Undoubtedly, this band can write a catchy hook, and ‘Contact’ is not, at heart, bad. If anything, it just feels slightly out of touch with the rich catalogue of music that The Noisettes obviously love, and the depth they are so clearly capable of. ‘Contact’ is a disappointment because it’s packed with untapped potential, which never seems to be fully realised.