Review: “Contact,” by Noisettes

Here’s another late one. Sorry, I was on vacation.

Throughout Noisettes’ three albums so far, you can trace a progression away from the “noise” and toward the “ettes” – that is, from sheer volume to something more digestible. The band’s first album, 2007’s “What’s the Time Mr. Wolf?” was a rowdy cacophony, while 2009’s “Wild Young Hearts” was a still-brash but more refined take on the 1960s pop diva record, with Shingai Shoniwa’s big voice taking the place of Diana Ross’s. Last month’s “Contact” continued the shift to something slicker and quieter.

That’s not a bad thing. “Contact” shows a band well on the way to a more refined sound, and Noisette’s third album is their best, if not quite as memorable as the one that came before.

For all of its faults (primarily that many of the songs were far too repetitive), “Wild Young Hearts” was home to a trio of great songs in the title track, “Cheap Kicks” and “Never Forget You,” the latter of which was a delectable throwback that both charmed and seduced its way into becoming one of the best songs of the year. While it can’t claim any songs as good as “Wild Young Hearts” had at its best, “Contact” is at its best much more often.

After a brief intro track, “Contact” starts out strong with “I Want You Back,” which is not a cover of the famous Jackson 5 tune. The song has a solid groove and displays Shoniwa’s big voice and attitude, and it works well as a tone setter: listeners are quickly oriented to an album that tries to take the diva aspect of the Noisettes’ sound – definitely the band’s strongest attribute – and modernize it with present-day hooks and shimmering production values. Call it turn-off-your-brain music with a brain – or at least a solid sensibility.

“Final Call,” “Winner” and “Let the Music Play” continue in “I Want You Back’s” footsteps, cribbing the opener’s upbeat melodies and self-confident lyrics. From there, the album gets a little more eclectic, with a serviceable ballad (“Travelling Light”), an update on bubblegum pop (“That Girl”), a skillful though tonally surprising bluegrass tune (“Ragtop Car”) and a moody setpiece (“Never Enough”) before shifting back into slick sound/big voice territory for most of the rest of the album (besides the laid back title track at the end).

“Contact” is certainly enjoyable – very much so, even. At this point, making enjoyable music is almost effortless for Noisettes. That said, though it hits all the right flourishes, from a funky bass line to a back-up girl chorus similar to the one that served Adele so well not that long ago, it tends to slide right off the mind once the disc stops spinning.

Play it prodigiously at parties or when out for a drive on a sunny day, but don’t expect it to change your life.

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