Mcbusted ‘Mcbusted’ – Review

24 Dec

First off a little background. Mcbusted is a supergroup featuring two ex-members of Busted, and all four members of Mcfly. The relationship between the two bands has always been a bit incestuous; Mcfly’s Tom Fletcher was originally a member of Busted, till he got the chop in favour of Charlie Simpson, and he contributed songs to both of Busted’s albums. Likewise, Busted’s James Bourne, co-wrote songs for Mcfly’s albums. Both acts had considerable success that started in 2002 and, in Busted’s case, ended abruptly, and in Mcfly’s case, continued in a dwindling fashion until the moment ‘Mcbusted’ formed. Still with me? Mcbusted exist because Busted’s Charlie Simpson refuses to participate in any kind of pure Busted reunion. Charlie left the band in disharmonious circumstances, to concentrate on ‘Serious’ projects like post-hardcore/emo act Fightstar and a solo career as a Mumford and Sons style revivalist – hence, Mcbusted.

Mcbusted’s brief existence has been surprisingly successful. They completed an extensive sell-out arena tour, supported One Direction in Stadiums, and sold out a headline Hyde Park show in front of 50,00 fans. Nostalgia is responsible for a lot of the ticket sales though, and it remains to be seen whether this will translate in to a desire for hearing anything new (disappointing initial sales for single and album alike suggest not really). But either way, the extent to which you buy into the band will depend on how highly you regard the groups’ original records.

As it happens I rate both of Busted’s albums, and Mcfly’s debut, very highly indeed. At the time I was put off by the more flourescent aspects of the band and their music (I’ll come on to this later). The fact that their audience was almost exclusively tween girls didn’t help endear them to the 12 year old me either, but I’ve warmed to them over the years, drawn to their helplessly catchy tunes, inventive lyricism and slick production. ‘Mcbusted’ is produced by Steve Robson, who worked on those original records, and it sounds just as slick. Vocally every member of the group sounds better than ever, and they each get a turn to shine in a singing rota that alternates voices, verse to chorus. For all their flaws, and there are flaws, Mcbusted are a band full of rich personalities and those personalities shine through. In its brightest moments the album is tuneful, energetic and funny; listen to the inspired conflict of ‘Hate Your Guts’ or the sticky chorus of ‘Get Over It’ or the surprisingly mature confessions on ‘What Happened to Your Band’. It’s difficult to dislike a group of enthusiastic and talented musicians playing with such joy and excitement.

I’m just GENUINELY sorry it doesn’t entirely work out. ‘Mcbusted’ is a failure on three levels. Firstly, it’s annoyingly juvenile. Busted were always juvenile, but that is because they were teenagers, and it felt true and endearing, if somewhat annoying. Ten Years later it feels slightly phoney. Songs like ‘Riding my bike’ and ‘Air Guitar’ and ‘How’s My Hair?’ are underwhelmingly slight and silly. Remember we’ve waited a long time for this, and while we would expect some goofiness from the band, they should have remembered that a little silliness goes a long way, and Mcbusted’s reliance on childish lyrics actually undoes some of the musical sophistication, particularly on the Cure-esque ‘How’s My Hair’ (‘Riding my Bike’ is beyond redemption).

The second big disappointment is how dated the record sounds. In light of the success of Five Seconds of Summer and The Vamps, I was expecting Mcbusted to come out of the blocks with something more contemporary. In fact, Mcbusted sounds like it could have been released ten years ago. Busted’s debut featured spot on references to pop culture – songs like ‘Britney’ and ‘Dawson’s Geek’ were funny, self-aware and of the moment. The pop culture references on ‘Mcbusted’ would be much more at home on THAT album, back in 2002. S Club 7 and Slipknot get a shout out, Sex and the City is mentioned, one of the song titles is a nod to 50 Cent, and Blink 182’s Tom Hoppus gets a guest slot. Of course Mcbusted’s fans have grown with the band and none of these references will go over their heads but it does rather restrict the interest of new fans. Musically it’s equally regressive, which is perhaps because some of these songs are quite old. By the band’s account, at least three of these songs can be dated back to the last decade, and only one was worked on by all six members. Nothing here sounds particularly fresh or innovative in a 2014 sort of way.

Which is directly related to the third big problem. It sounds like a rush job. The band started work on the album after the Hyde Park show in June. That left them about four months to make the thing, and it’s telling. The songs don’t always sound completely thought through – who makes a song dedicated to an air guitar and then forget to include a guitar solo? There are wild jumps in style and quality, from straight up pop-punk numbers to heavier ballads and quirky left-field pop songs. It doesn’t sit together at all well. Nothing here can live up to either the best Mcfly or Busted songs, and some of the songs rank as the worst material in either band’s discography. ‘Riding My Bike’ is a dreadful ‘Fireflies’ rip off that sits like a roadblock in the middle of the album and sucks up any momentum. ‘In Da Club’ is an obnoxious and slightly mean-spirited take on a ‘lads living it up’ anthem. Equally cringe-worthy is the vaguely sexist, moderately arrogant ‘I See Red’ in which Tom excuses himself from any bad behaviour as he is ‘in a band’. These songs call to mind Busted’s worst excesses and reaffirms the things that initially jarred me about the band – their fake American accents, cheesy posturing and over-excitable nature – as well as some negatives I missed first time (revisiting Busted’s first album I’m struck by the casual misogyny and crassness of songs like ‘All the Way’, ‘Crash and Burn’ and ‘Dawson’s Geek’).

But there were great things about Busted too – their exuberance, enthusiasm and the abundance of catchy tunes. These things carry over to ‘Mcbusted’, just not enough to mak it a successful record. At it’s best ‘Mcbusted’ is enjoyable but it’s never anything more than that, and often a fair bit less.

4/10

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