Still, you can't blame the reformed five-piece for being a bit touchy about their name - they haven't been "new" since they released their debut album in 1986; and with a collective age of 190, only your grandfather could call them "kids" without having to swallow a snigger. Sadly, on this, their first record in 14 years, Danny, Donnie, Joey, Jordan and Jonathan have resolutely refused to grow old gracefully.
While Take That, the British boyband they inspired, have eased into the middle of the road since reforming, New Kids - sorry, "The Block" - want to show they can still cut it with the youngsters. With production from hip R&B beatsmiths (RedOne, Polow Da Don and the ubiquitous Timbaland all contribute), and cameos from Ne-Yo, Akon and the Pussycat Dolls, The Block is the sort of album *N SYNC might make if they reunited in 2008. There's flashy, synthy R&B for the uptempo cuts, sultry, minimal R&B for the midtempo ones and just two gooey ballads.
As its enviable cast list would suggest, The Block sounds pretty good as it plays, particularly the exuberant 'Twisted' and the Aretha-sampling 'Grown Man'. The trouble comes when you pay any degree of attention to the lyrics, which run the gamut all the way from sexy to sexual to sex-obsessed. There's a song about making a sex tape, a song about S&M, a song called 'Sexify My Love', a song where the New Kids essentially dry-hump the Pussycat Dolls for three minutes and a song where we learn that their ideal woman, who's blessed with a "pretty pretty face", an "itty bitty waist" and "big ol' hips", looks remarkably like Jessica Rabbit.
By the time these self-styled Sex Gods are pledging to "fill you up-up, pump you up-up, 'til the tip-top, drip-drop..." on track eleven, their obsession with getting laid has become really quite tiresome. The Block may raise several questions about how we expect men in their (late) thirties to behave, but it does at least settle one matter definitively. Why did NKOTB release 'Summertime', the most old-fashioned track here, as the album's lead single? Because, for all its faults, it has an innocence that the rest of this crass, rather creepy album is lacking.