The 411
Between The Sheets


pandau Ballet and Duran Duran, Michael Dukakis and Ronald Reagan, Peterborough United and Northampton Town… it’s hard when your main rival is a lot more successful and better regarded than you. So it’s December 2004 and the critical world is wetting itself over the new Girls Aloud album. No all-girl act has effectively conquered the critical world as well since the Spice Girls. And The 411 are in every way the All Saints to Girls Aloud’s Spice Girls: more sophisticated, more musically talented, the writers of their own songs, less interesting, and less successful.

Pop groups don’t fail due to a lack of songs per se, but rather the inability to connect with an audience. If you don’t have the songs to connect, then you at least need a personality that makes up for any holes in your oeuvre. The 411 were formed out of the backing singers for Lemar, and with the total lack of presence they bring to this album, you have to wonder if it may have been better for all concern if they’d have stayed behind the soulboy throwback. There is nothing at all to distinguish any member of The 411 from the others, except for the quite impressive fact that they all have slightly different skin-tones. Nobody knows their names, and given the commercial failure of the album, it looks like nobody’s going to get the chance to. Which is a massive shame.

“12 TRACKS FEATURING THE HIT SINGLES “ON MY KNEES”, “DUMB”, AND “TEARDROPS”. Except “Teardrops” wasn’t really a hit now, was it? Built around THAT Portishead sample, admittedly it was never going to sell big, and was never going to work as intended—a critic-convincer when Nicola, Cheryl, et al were demolishing buildings around the corner. Still, to even hear trip-hop being attempted as a commercial movement in 2004 is vaguely cheering.

But “On My Knees” and “Dumb” were hits, and they both show off The 411 at their best. Whereas Girls Aloud’s beauty comes from their ability to cannibalise the entire last 50 years of popular music to create their own personal genre (The Bangles, The Knack, Puretone), The 411 work at their best as a kind of tribute act to the great girl bands throughout history. So “On My Knees” combines All Saints-esque emotional detachment with a 60s girl group narrative, whereas “Dumb” is the lost single from Fanmail. The album’s other big killer, potential fourth single (yeah, right) “Chance” is the kind of attention diverting fast-vocal mildly confusing ish Destiny’s Child would succeed at if they didn’t oversing everything.

It’s not just the great girl groups of our times that they tribute though, as the ghost of Eternal’s “socially conscious” period rattles its chains with “What If It Was You” (“See her on the street / Selling her body just to make ends meet…. She prays but nobody answers back”) and “My Friend” attempting to set the world to rights and instead set its teeth on edge.

The 411 are talented, have a gifted team behind them, a Studio One cover on their debut album and no future. If they had personalities, they’d be dangerous. As it stands: talented but toothless.

Reviewed by: Dom Passantino

Reviewed on: 2004-12-01

Recent Reviews By This Author

Adam Green - Gemstones
Ugly Duckling - Combo Meal
Apathy - Where’s Your Album?!!
2004 Year End Thoughts - Dom Passantino
Westlife - Allow Us To Be Frank

Log In to Post Comments
No comments posted.
all content copyright 2004