All Saints: Red Flag | Virgin Media
All Saints: Red Flag

All Saints: Red FlagAlbum review by Matthew Horton | Rating: ★★★☆☆



So here we are, the third coming of All Saints. The first was pretty good, wasn't it? I Know Where It's At, Never Ever, Pure Shores, Black Coffee and many more sharp, smart and just a little bit cool pop smashes. Four number one singles in there somewhere too. But then came the spat over the leather jacket and it all went kaput in 2001.

The less said about that 2006 comeback the better. Rock Steady was a suitably solid single but the album Studio 1 only just snuck into the Top 40. Seemed there wasn't much appetite for the return of 90s girlbands. Even the Spice Girls struggled.

Still, you can't keep a slightly fractious band down, not for long. After testing the water with a live tour, Shaznay Lewis, Mel Blatt and Appleton sisters Natalie and Nicole realised they had the taste for new music, and finally Red Flag appears, hoping to banish any Studio 1 nightmares.

And so it does, mainly by harking back to former – even earlier – glories. First single One Strike is the perfect example, heavily soaked in Pure Shores, but with a hard-won wisdom. "Silently numb/I'm waiting for the storm to come," sings Blatt, her voice as honeyed as it ever was, the new sentiments reputedly drawing on Nicole Appleton's split from Liam Gallagher.

Zayn: Mind Of Mine

One Woman man is at least as good, and at least as hurt – "Sometimes is it better to let go?" is the telling line, over thick, tumbling beats and stabbing synths. It's not an album packed with laughs. This Is War is dark 90s R&B, lamenting a "bad boy", while beatless ballad Who Hurt Who pulls apart another relationship, albeit beautifully.

It's less fun when it's more fun. The skanking Ratchet Behaviour feels perfunctory; the dancehall synth-pop of Puppet On A String would sound more convincing in the hands of Charli XCX. All Saints just seem better at the slow stuff now, and closer Pieces emphasises the point prettily. Even then, it comes on like a decaffeinated Black Coffee.

For a glorious comeback, Red Flag is subdued. Perhaps that's the effect of growing up, living life's extremes, calming down. While it won't light any fires, it suits them – a comfortable return.

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