There has been something oddly infectious to The Ting Tings music over the years, and they’ve always managed to sound distinct no matter the genre. However after a notable break between records, their latest effort sees the Ting Tings sounding unoriginal and lacking their usual fun. Though it’s great that they’re trying to keep changing up, they end up missing the mark and feeling like they’re trying too hard to be something else.
It’s frank and clear from “Estranged” that even with some glimmers of hope, the Ting Tings are in a darker place on this record, and are struggling to escape. As admittedly modern as their auto-tuned vocals are, they are starkly out of place even amongst the band’s more electronic moments. Even with the roaring finale that the song ends on, the breakdown and build up to get there feels so drawn out that it’s hard to get into it early on. “Basement” on the other hand adds a little more grit to their usual preppy pop for something fun and excitingly aggressive. This no-frills approach is effortlessly fun and shows the band isn’t ditching their earlier spirit just yet.
It’s a bit harder to feel out “A&E” as the song’s pop is all too predictable and its sounds don’t offer enough emotional weight to balance out their inoffensive sounds. While note bad in any way, the song ultimately sits right in the middle of the valley where it just doesn’t stand out and feel memorable. “Blacklight” is a pretty testing track as it sees the Ting Tings tapping into a light amount of modern hip hop with old drum and bass sounds. Even disregarding expectations of their music, this track feels wildly outdated and just can’t settle into a groove long enough to work in itself.
They find more solid ground on something like “Earthquake” but ultimately the track feels like an early exploration of dark electronics rather than something new or deep. This wouldn’t be such a problem either, though the band just distinctly knocks on the same loop for far too much of the track. Builds bring great tension to music, but a song that is always twisting on climactic energy is draining. “Fine & Dandy” in this respect takes many great pop moments that would serve well across other songs on the album and mashes them into a four-minute pre-chorus sampler that never resolves.
As repetitive as “Word For This” feels more often than not, it does find some merit to the band’s retro dance direction. By taking their unique vocal attitudes and bringing them out on their new territory, they save it from feeling to foreign or straightforward. Their upbeat guitar return as a highlight of “Good Grief” and save a lot of its generic dance production. More than this is the pointed lyrics that are just too satisfying to hear as fast as they come out.
Words by Owen Maxwell