A1  - Make It Good

At the same time "real music" fans are drinking real ale and moaning about how music was better in their day, A1 have sneaked into the nations consciousness as a pop act who actually have a real artistic vision of where they will be in 5 years time. When they first hit the scene with the "Here It Comes" album they could have easily been written off as a throwaway manufactured pop act...manufactured they were, but the fact that they rescued pop music from the bland and actually co-wrote most of their debut album was a clear sign that A1 were not just your standard boy band fodder. Looking back even the atrocious cover of Aha's "Take On Me" was an inspired move because it lowered people's defences, baited Noel Gallagher into looking like a walking cliché and then they unleashed the honest, open and pure A1 with "Caught In The Middle".

I'd like to think that "Make It Good" is a transitional album between the out and out Americanized pop of "The A List" and the next album which will hopefully seem them release a Nu-Metal Psycho Brit-Punk masterpiece. Its also an album which essentially transforms the least favourite A1 member Christian into the main visionary in a move not seen since Gary Barlow wrote "Back For Good" and in the process seems to push the cheesy stage school drama of Mark to the sidelines.

Whereas in the past the guys have worked with songwriters such as D:Ream, for this album they've brought in pop veteran Chesney Hawkes to pen a couple of tunes and Mike Hedges works his magic on production. Chesney just released a comeback single, which although it was a major flop, showed over the 10 years out of the limelight he certainly has grown up and is more likely to put on a copy of "The Bends" rather than listen to daytime Radio 1. Like previous A1 albums, "Make It Good" is a slow burner rather than a hit to the senses although they never miss the opportunity to release that killer hook. "Let It Out", the albums closer, is just about the most perfect pop song they've ever penned and if released as a single could see sales go through the roof. Its the rock based tracks like "Isn't It Cheap" and "This Ain't What Love Is About" that really excel with repeated listens, whereas some of the ballads veer a little to close to Ronan Keating in country mode and aren't a patch on "Like A Rose".

As I said before I'd like to think this album is a transitional one to a more adventurous path, whether it takes them further down the rock route or on a totally different highway. The thing about A1 is they never repeat themselves with each consecutive album and the next release could see them pursuing the gospel route they've taken a keen interest in over the years or maybe they will develop soundscapes Brian Wilson style. We could keep on guessing, but whichever route they take it will continue to be more interesting than whichever manufactured pop act top the charts that week and for that alone we have to be thankful for A1.

Alex McCann

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