Review: All Saints – Testament
The London quartet follow 2016’s comeback LP, Red Flag, with a slightly flawed but rarely disappointing fifth album that’s not just for the ladies… Wyndham Wallace awards this album four stars and the title of Classic Pop‘s Best New Release.
Testament doesn’t begin in an auspicious fashion, but brace yourself because it’s worth persevering. There’s the fake crackle of vinyl – what better way to signal authenticity than inauthenticity? – before a monologue about the two kinds of men one can meet. One apparently offers the life you want, the other the love you desire. “Always choose love,” we’re advised, glibly.
That text was written by Lang Leav, a ‘poet’ best known for sharing her work to half a million Instagram followers and often derided for offering up little more than internet memes. If you insist on presenting what some consider shallow, self-satisfied generalisations about an entire sex, though, don’t misquote them. Here, the final sentence is missing a crucial word – “yourself” – rendering somewhat nonsensical what is already, given All Saints’ history, a strangely unprogressive sentiment.
But what if we just want great pop? Luckily, this is one of only a few missteps on what is otherwise a fine album. For proof, stick around to the minute mark, when Who Do You Love kicks in, with melodic gasps introducing a chiming chorus, strings dancing in the verse, a breakdown that Massive Attack might favour, and a final warning: “Choose me when the shit goes down”.
And, for the most part, that’s good advice. Shit goes down throughout, with only Fumes – whose percussive break adds mystery but fails to save a pale Morcheeba rip-off – and tedious final track Footprints guilty of being a little stinky.
Three Four bleeds attitude, its mighty beat matched by looped vocal hollers, while Glorious, the album’s penultimate track, combines a military snare beat with an aspirational chorus – introduced with a winning shout out: “Ladies? Are you ready?” – that’s far more convincing than anything Lang Leav could muster. In between, there’s No Issues, a vital, MIA-like anthem; Don’t Look Over Your Shoulder, which merges the colloquial style of Lily Allen’s recent pop masterpiece No Shame with lush R&B; and the absorbing After All, on which producer William Orbit’s fingerprints are everywhere.
There are even two a cappella interludes, the harmonic Nowhere To Hide and yoga-friendly Breathe And Let Go. Testament’s not poetry, but should endure longer than the banal words with which it starts. It is, for the most part, authentically great pop.
Released on Absolute.