15th November 2010. That was the last time, almost 10 years to the day, that McFly last released a full studio album. Said album – Above the Noise – is probably still up there with Spice Girls’ Forever and The Human League’s Crash as a potentially brilliant but wonkily executed tap into an unexpected territory by a very British pop band.
Produced for the most part with Dallas Austin, whilst it spawned one of their biggest hits since their mid-00s imperial years (‘Shine A Light’), the rest of the album’s attempt to turn them into a bizzaro world cross between Lady GaGa and Michael Jackson, and its commercial underperformance had the unintended consequence of sending them off on what has been a rollercoaster of a decade since career wise.
Chiefly: a near split, rehab, mental health struggles, becoming dads/getting married, reality TV victory, an album recorded in Texas in 2013 that was halted at the 11th hour (finally seeing the light of day with last year’s The Lost Songs project), the juggernaut that was McBusted, and then another sort-of-split / awkward period of miscommunication that resulted in three years of silence (as anyone who caught their tell-all documentary All About Us that was on ITV over the weekend will testify) before their triumphant comeback show at the O2 Arena in November of last year.
We can’t think of any other pop band who’ve had such a tumultuous gap between albums (except maybe All Saints?). But then, Tom, Danny, Dougie and Harry have never been any other pop bands. Something that Young Dumb Thrills, their brand new and actual sixth album showcases in spades.
The album’s first single, the brass resplendent and lilting ‘Happiness’, is the perfect opener, and finds them back on form, smiling, uninhibited and at ease as they did back when they released ‘5 Colours In Her Hair’. As per the bridge lyrics, “The only way I could describe it / It’s like hearing a love song and jumping inside it”.
The hooks and their great ear for a pop melody with just a bit more of a cheeky bite are also present on ‘Another Song About Love’, the best pop song about the plight of the pop songwriter since Natasha Bedingfield’s seminal ‘These Words’ in 2004 – coincidentally, the same year their classic first album Room on the 3rd Floor was released.
In fact, their more punky sensibilities of old are happily still intact on songs like ‘Growing Up’, a collaboration with Blink 182’s Mark Hoppus, and on the album’s title track with one of this album’s other main collaborators, the Essex based singer/songwriter Jordan Cardy, aka Rat Boy.
Both touch on the idea of music and rocking out in front of a crowd (the latter of which there’s not been much opportunity to do this year admittedly) and how ‘There’s not much we can do about growing old / But plenty we can do about growing up’.
This fearless bravado, even with maturity as performers and writers, is also at play on ‘Wild and Young’, a Danny led part-80s power pop stormer that we dare say would give Bruce Springsteen or Don Henley a considerable run for their money. Definitely one to listen to on days with the car roof down.
But the album has it’s sensitive and captivating moments in equal measure too. ‘Head Up’ has a universal and earworm chorus but is tied together with lyrics that speak of regret, loss and longing sung by Dougie that touch on some of their difficulties as a band the last few years which you can tell really come from the heart.
And then there’s the album’s closing track ‘Not The End’, one of the most perfectly realised songs in all of McFly’s history. When you hear it, it’s not only like the pop band equivalent of a renewal of wedding vows (apt given certain members’ dalliances in wedding speeches) but also the kind of ‘end-of-night’ anthem in waiting that the world needs when big gatherings can happen again.
It may have taken them a decade to properly get to this point, but something tells me with repeated listens that it’s a good thing they did. Young Dumb Thrills as a body of work perfectly finesses everything McFly have done – and continue – to do so well whilst taking things up another level to boot. They are finally the band that I’m sure they saw themselves becoming with this album, and more praise to them I say, for having the tenacity and drive to get there in the end.
STREAM THESE: ‘Not the End’ / ‘Head Up’ / ‘Wild and Young’ / ‘Growing Up’ (feat. Mark Hoppus) / ‘Young Dumb Thrills’ (feat. Rat Boy)
‘Young Dumb Thrills’ is available to stream and download now via BMG. McFly have just launched a new on-demand video streaming service called ‘McFly: Total Access’ which includes a live stream of their O2 Arena show from London last year. Monthly and yearly subscriptions available – head to their website here. Twitter: @mcflymusic
Have you heard this album? What do you think? Do you agree with our review? Leave your comments below or message us on Instagram using the hashtag #CrazyStupidAlbum.