On paper Neon Jungle’s debut album should be one of the hottest pop releases of the year. They’ve spent the past twelve months carving themselves a place as the cooler alternative to Little Mix and The Saturdays, with songs that effortlessly fit into the current dance dominated chart climate, and an attitude and style reminiscent of All Saints and the early Sugababes lineups to match. Yet the end result is actually quite disappointing, the best tracks have already been released as singles, and the group’s lack of a clear identity is suddenly pushed to the surface.
The album opens with Braveheart, their second single and biggest hit to date. It’s easy to see why it’s connected so well with a casual audience that might not automatically be interested in a girl band, as the infectious bass and catchy hooks make the production seem absolutely massive – this is perfectly suiting the club atmosphere they seem to be pushing for. The gritty Welcome To The Jungle follows a similar structure, as does the slightly more punchy Trouble, but what these tracks lack in diversity they make up for in brash attitude and a nice sense of consistency. Fourth single Louder breaks the mould by being a more down-tempo number, and while still packing a strong chorus, their vocals feel a little unsuited to its more delicate demands.
The rest of the album is mostly just misfires in various musical directions, bringing back unfortunate memories of Stooshe’s messy debut from last year. Badman sounds like something Rihanna rejected from one of her weaker albums, and Fool Me simply refuses to go anywhere The biggest disaster is the much criticised cover of Waiting Game. A carbon copy of the Banks original, they fail to convey any of the track’s heartache, rendering it about as useful as a karaoke version. The Cocknbullkid penned bonus tracks London Rain and Future X Girl help bring the standard up a little – the former has a nice euphoric feeling to it, and the latter acts as a natural continuation of the singles, but it’s difficult not to be disappointing by the album’s general structure.
What Welcome To The Jungle makes obvious is how reliant Neon Jungle have been on heavy production. Whenever it’s taken away and they try something different, their weak lyrics become difficult to ignore. The rap on Braveheart borders on being ridiculous when you actually take a closer look at it, but it never previously mattered because other key elements of the song still allowed for it to be fantastic, and this sadly isn’t the case for most of the album. This quite easily could have been a great record had a large chunk of it been reconsidered, and hopefully Neon Jungle still have it in them to release something worthwhile.