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Music Review

McFly: 'Radio: ACTIVE'

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McFly: 'Radio: ACTIVE'
Released on Sunday, Jul 20 2008

McFly's distribution deal with the Mail on Sunday, which gave away free copies of their new album six weeks before it became available in the shops, has attracted plenty of attention. Sadly, almost nobody is talking about the music. It seems to have been forgotten that Radio:ACTIVE is the first album McFly have made since setting up their own label, Super Records, and therefore the first they've made entirely on their own terms. Whereas previous recordings were, in the words of drummer Harry Judd, "filtered" by the powers that be at Island Records, Radio: ACTIVE should, in theory at least, showcase McFly as they really want to sound.

To that end, Radio: ACTIVE is certainly the group's hardest, rockiest album to date, with nods to everything from Springsteen to nu-metal (yes, really!) popping up over its ten tracks. It's also noticeably less chipper than previous McFly records, featuring songs that take potshots at the band's detractors and useless ex-girlfriends. It's a little more cynical and American-sounding too, as lead single 'One For The Radio' had signposted, but McFly haven't exactly thrown caution to the wind here. The "f**k" on 'Everybody Knows' still gets bleeped.

Because they're consummate professionals, and Fletcher is a talented pop songsmith who seems incapable of writing songs that aren't hooky and melodic, McFly have managed to beef up their sound without sacrificing their pop appeal. The likes of 'Falling In Love', an ace Springsteen homage, and 'Everybody Knows', a fist-pumping stadium anthem that sounds like Bon Jovi, are as joyous and catchy as anything McFly have ever recorded. Meanwhile, 'Do Ya' and 'Going Through The Motions' continue the group's fascination with sixties guitar-pop to winning effect.

Sadly, McFly come a cropper when they try to be too serious. 'Corrupted' and 'POV' tip their caps towards nu-metal, with wailing vocals and lots of loud/quiet/loud dynamic shifts, but the dourness dilutes the group's charm. Similarly, closer 'The Last Song' is sunk by its overwrought arrangement, and lines like "I don't know how the hell I fell in love with you" just don't sound right from McFly, who've always come across like four thoroughly nice boys from down the road who just happen to be in a pop group.

Ultimately, this album suggests McFly are slightly unsure of where to go next. Do they want to crank out infectious guitar-pop anthems that will fill arenas from Belfast to Bournemouth, or would they prefer to gaze at their navels? Perhaps the situation will become clearer when Radio: ACTIVE's Deluxe Edition, which will feature four additional tracks, is released in September. Until then there's enough good stuff here to earn them the benefit of the doubt.



[The 'Deluxe Edition', released in September 2008, adds four new tracks to the Mail On Sunday freebie and removes the re-recorded version of 'The Heart Never Lies'. Each of the new songs slots comfortably onto the original album, with the dark, brassy 'Lies' and punchy 'Only The Strong Survive' adding particular value. Lyrically, the McFly boys continue to grow into men, with talk of "living fast, dying young", wanting to "die on the highest high" and a love that "feels like a kick in the balls". You don't hear that kind of thing from the Jonas Brothers.]

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