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All Saints Red Flag Universal

All Saints had a stab at a comeback 10 years ago. Their 2006 Studio 1 LP was caught in a sales war against greatest hits collections from both George Michael and the Sugababes. The competition was too stiff, and the album entered at number 40 before falling significantly from that spot in the weeks that followed. A decade later, and the tides have changed.

In 2006, their reunion was promoted as a group who “still had it”. Their voices were marred by tacky electro-RnB production and their personalities obscured by ill-advised attempts to appear current.

And while Red Flag won’t be the most inspiring pop record you’ll hear this year, it flourishes everywhere the last attempt fell flat, with crisp vocals, clear melodies and a performance style that feels natural. One Strike, One Woman Man and This Is A War all exude an innate confidence, one where age and life experience is presented as dignity and wisdom rather than something which needs to be concealed.

Things derail a bit in the second half of the record – don’t make the mistake of playing Ratchet Behaviour if you’ve got company – but this album is that rarest of pop commodities. It’s a comeback that we can collectively get behind. This is a nice follow on from the days of Timberlands and camouflage cargo pants during the peak of New Labour. Back then, All Saints were presented to us as a credible tonic to the Spice Girls’ manufactured silliness – four women approaching the charts with honesty and composure. Red Flag isn’t exactly a home run, but it’s good to see them slip back into those roles so effortlessly.