Monday, December 10, 2007

machine girl

THE tabloids are to be believed, Girls Aloud are an intimidating bunch; bitchy, loud and not afraid of voicing their often contro- versial views. They like a drink, too, as the papers like to point out on a daily basis when they print pictures of the girls falling out of taxis and nightclubs.

But the truth is much more civilised than that. It almost always is.

Lounging around on sofas having just finished their lunch, the girls are the picture of normality. Dressed casually and chatting among themselves, they could be close friends at a sleepover or similar girly gathering.

The girls have just released Tangled Up, their fifth studio album � not a bad feat for a group put together on a TV talent show � and recently announced dates for an up- coming arena tour which will see them become one of the first big acts to play the new Echo Arena, Liverpool.

As if that were not enough to keep spirits high, the five-piece � Kimberley Walsh, Sarah Harding, Nadine Coyle, Runcorn-born Nicola Roberts and Cheryl Cole, have also just been named the most successful girl group of all time.

That accolade came after the first single from Tangled Up, the punchy Sexy! No No No became their sixteenth to crack the Top 10 and landed them a place in the Guinness World Records book for the most consecutive Top 10 hits in the UK by a female group. The follow-up release, Call The Shots, released last week and reaching number three, took that number to 17.

It puts the Spice Girls and Destiny's Child in the shade. Our own Girl Aloud, Nicola, sums up the band's appeal thus: "We're a people's band, an accessible public band. The public have had a part in all of this � not just the fans. They chose to get on board right from the beginning."

In the five years since they appeared on X-Factor precursor Popstars the Rivals, the girls have certainly matured into sassy young women with very different public personas.

Kimberley, 26, is the wisest and most reserved, offering reasoned and articulate answers to whatever question is thrown her way, while glamorous Nadine, 23, is also famous in the US, thanks to her relationship with Desperate Housewives star Jesse Metcalfe (it was rumoured this week the pair have become engaged). She also owns a chain of restaurants there, and property in LA.

Geordie Cheryl, married to Chelsea defender Ashley Cole, is blessed with a steely no-messing attitude and a quick wit, while our own Runcorn-born Nicola, 24, has a bone-dry humour, which is sometimes mistaken for moodiness.

Shapely 26-year-old Sarah, meanwhile, with her party lifestyle and lingerie modelling contract, provides the rock and roll element of an otherwise perfect pop band.

So what can the girls tell us about what could be their most grown up album to date?

Nadine, in her thick, sometimes indecipherable Northern Irish brogue, is the first to chip in with an answer.

"The songs are all in the same vein, whereas the others have been quite random. On the last record, for example, we had a song called Swinging London Town, which was dancey, like trance almost, so not like our usual material."

"It's more mature, definitely. Less tongue-in-cheek," adds Sarah.

If their critics are to be believed, Girls Aloud are nothing more than pretty pop puppets told what to sing by their producers, what to wear by stylists, and how to behave by their manager. Naturally, the girls are at pains to put paid to such claims.

Brian Higgins is the man responsible for all Girls Aloud songs, making him one of the most successful British songwriters of all time, but they have plenty of input.

One by one, the girls go to Higgins's house-cum-studio and tell him all about what's been happening since their last album. They talk relationships, feelings, you name it.

"It's not like an interview or anything," says Kimberley. "We know him so well that we can talk to him about anything. He just wants to know whatever. He's like a sixth member, I guess!"

"Brian takes inspiration from all that, so it's important he's up to date with where we are. Our songs have to reflect us so that's why we do it," adds Nicola.

After that, songs are written, demos are recorded and ideas are swapped. Normally, a Girls Aloud album will be recorded in a matter of weeks, but Tangled Up took much longer.

"It took six months this time, which is a long time for us," explains Kimberley. "We normally do it in more concentrated periods, but we spread it out a bit, plus the single Sexy! No No No came out in the middle of recording, so we had to take time out to promote that."

All five members are united in praise for the current single, while Can't Speak French, rumoured to be the next release, is a particular favourite of Cheryl's.

"It gives me goosebumps that song, I love it," she beams. "I can't speak French although I did go out with a French boy for a little while, so I got some CDs to learn the language. I picked up a bit, but I've forgotten most of it apart from a few bad words
opened up my email this weekend and was greeted by a message from Todd Brown at Twitch, who wanted me to check out the movie trailer for a Japanese movie called Machine Girl. He assured me that this might be the cult film of next year, and judging by the trailer, he might be right.

The film features yakuza ninjas, flying guillotines, a drill bra, a Japanese teenage schoolgirl, and probably more blood than I've seen on screen this year in all the films combined. Seems like Planet Terror


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