Remember when The Ting Tings were everywhere? Katie and Jules’ fresh, dance-punk sound turned them into one of the bands of 2008, dominating radio waves all summer thanks to two huge hits and a strong debut album. But time flies, and six years on they release Super Critical, hoping to disco to those dizzy heights again.
Of course, The Ting Tings were never supposed to leave the spotlight. Falling to the second album curse, upon its belated release Sounds From Nowheresville was described as ‘lukewarm’ by critics and sold well below expectations. Their star had faded; Katie has since described the development of that album a “difficult time”, as interference from label Columbia overwhelmed the creative process.
‘Super Critical’, however, is a new dawn and an opportunity for rebirth. The Ting Tings, notably reclusive in preferring to work only with each other, entrusted former Duran Duran star Andy Taylor to assist in the reinvention. The nine-track album was borne in Ibiza and completed in New York; No longer tied down to Columbia, the decision was made to proceed without major label influence.
The first single from the new album, ‘Wrong Club’, was revealed in the summer. Only a few bars need to pass before the penny drops that this is a new Ting Tings, heavily influenced by disco. But while much has changed, much has stayed the same, their dance pomp and the fun we’ve come to expect still intact.
Fans of the first single will be pleased with what ‘Super Critical’ has to offer. It’s an album laden with funky riffs, an exercise in rhythm and groove. The Ting Tings and Andy Taylor used analogue recording techniques to reinforce the throwback sound, but have also managed to keep the sound fresh, modern and relevant.
Immediate standouts include the cheerful and poppy ‘Daughter’, the synthy ‘Communication’, and ‘Green Poison’, an excellent straight homage to the disco era that you could probably sneak onto a 70s playlist without arousing a great deal of suspicion. Second single ‘Do It Again’ is also solid, if repetitive.
But the album is not perfect. ‘Wabi Sabi’ is a plodding ballad that fails to fit in with anything else, while title track “Super Critical” is equally throwaway. Yet for two songs out of nine to be duds is acceptable for what is at heart a pop album, and Super Critical contains as many as six songs that would make good singles, lending themselves well to remixes and filling dance floors.
‘Super Critical’ is a return to form in which the form books have been destroyed, a total reinvention complete, and with thirty-two minutes of pure dance-disco fun it is well worth a listen. The lack of an obvious major hit will prevent The Ting Tings from reaching the woozy heights of 2008, but is that a bad thing? Arguably not. 7.8/10
Out on October 27th, listen below to the album sampler