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Waiting for Daylight *


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  • Since Take That's triumphant re-formation, it appears that every '90s boy band has crawled out of the woodwork to take a second bite at the cherry, all with varying degrees of success. Boyzone may have scored a number one album, but New Kids on the Block have struggled to repeat the chart-topping domination of their heyday, while reunions from East 17 and Five stuttered to a halt before they even started. Anglo-Norwegian outfit A1 are the latest pop outfit to get in on the act, having re-formed for a series of well-received gigs in 2009, minus original member, Paul Marazzi, which has spurred them on to record their first new album in over eight years. While they are still best-remembered for their day-glo outfits, relentlessly cheery image, and plastic pop sound which produced two number one singles at the start of the century, their third under-rated album, Make It Good, actually pre-dated the whole boy band-with-guitar scene long before Busted and McFly. Produced by the likes of David Eriksen (Will Young), Simen M. Eriksrud (Donkeyboy), and Martin Sjolie (Maria Mena), Waiting for Daylight continues where they left off, its 12 self-penned tracks revealing a confident and anthemic pop/rock sound which recalls the playful inventiveness of the boy band genre's most recent addition, the Wanted. Indeed, the pounding drums and Coldplay-esque strings of "Take You Home" and "Out There" treads the similar, understated trance-pop path of their younger counterparts' chart-topper "All Time Low." However, the majority of Waiting for Daylight draws from a much wider range of influences. The choppy synths, processed beats, and falsetto vocals of "Six Feet Under" recalls the Blade Runner pop of Frankmusik, the pulsating electro rhythms of "It Happens Every Day" evoke the '80s new wave of a-ha (whose "Take on Me" A1 previously covered), while the chorus of the impossibly infectious "Nothing in Common" nearly bursts into the Bloodhound Gang's innuendo-filled anthem "The Bad Touch." Best of all is the closing title track, a gorgeous, melancholic, piano-led ballad which finishes in a crescendo of crashing cymbals, chiming guitars, and epic piano chords, a far cry from the cheesy disco-pop of their debut, Here We Come. There are still occasions when their less sophisticated past creeps up on them, such as the trite lyrics of "Good Things Bad People" and the overwrought vocals on "Perfect Disaster," where you can almost picture the trio punching the air in unison. However, while Take That inevitably lap up all the plaudits with their mature new direction, the much less celebrated A1 deserve a lot of credit for stepping up their game on an album which more than matches the melodic and accomplished songwriting of Gary Barlow and company's post-comeback efforts. ~ Jon O'Brien
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