It’s the album that even the most optimistic of All Saints fans never really saw coming. The disappointing response to their mid-00s comeback appeared to kibosh the chances of any further new material, while shortly after supporting Backstreet Boys two years ago, Melanie Blatt firmly declared that the group had no interest in returning to the studio.
Thankfully Blatt, and the rest of the girl group who single-handedly kept the combat trouser industry afloat for several years, have since realised that the pop world needs them, and have reformed for a fourth LP – which considering their reputation for in-fighting couldn’t be more aptly-named.
Indeed, whereas most of the one-time Smash Hits cover stars who have jumped on the 90s nostalgia bandwagon appear content to trade on former glories, Red Flag is the sound of a group who still has plenty to offer in the here and now.
In fact, lead single 'One Strike', a gorgeously dreamy slice of electronic pop which addresses Nicole’s bitter divorce with Liam Gallagher, can comfortably sit alongside 'Pure Shores', 'Black Coffee' and 'War of Nerves' at the top of All Saints’ hit-list.
And there’s plenty more where that came from. 'One Woman Man' and 'Puppet on a String' – not a cover of the Eurovision classic but almost as addictive – both prove that Little Mix no longer have the monopoly on sassy girl pop.
The brooding trip-hop of 'This Is A War' and the triumphant electro-balladry of 'Pieces' show that the girls’ harmonies remain stronger than ever, while the piano-led 'Who Hurt Who' – the only track without a writing credit from Shaznay Lewis - is the kind of heartfelt weepie that could easily slot onto Adele’s recent world-conquering opus.
All Saints may no longer be squabbling about designer jackets, but the group haven’t completely learned from their past mistakes, with the likes of 'Summer Rain' and 'Ratchet Behaviour' – the first of four tracks here produced by early mentor K-Gee – pursuing the cod-rocksteady sound that derailed predecessor Studio 1.
But overall, Red Flag is a timeless return to form which extols the virtues of reuniting for the love of it rather than the money. Let’s just hope we don’t have to wait another ten years for its follow-up.
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