Thursday, 5 February 2015

REVIEW: McBusted, 'McBusted'


If it were not for McFly and Busted, I doubt this blog would be in existence today. A 12 year old's gateway to pop punk, to emo, and then to indie and alternative, they started a lineage which is responsible for all the of music I have held dear to my heart over the years. From the outside, their lightweight guitar pop is throwaway. To me, it was the key to the city.

Nearly ten years after Busted's split, a lot has changed. Cheeky lyrical innuendo has been replaced with twerking and toke-taking, deep house has become radio-worthy and some blokes called One Direction are papering the walls of teenage girls bedrooms. The spikey hair and airborne 'jumps' of yore are relics of another time, resigned to history alongside pokemon cards and sticky aliens that gave birth in the freezer. Is there really enough room in pop for six guys, rapidly approaching their thirties, to sing about girls with American Pie-worthy youth? Is it authentic enough to survive?

The thing about both Busted and McFly, was that it was never supposed to be serious. What I Go To School For? Back in 2003 that was a boyhood anthem. Nowadays, it would be labelled peadophilia wrapped up in a catchy chorus. All About You? A timeless feat of sweet lyricism that could be applied to almost any situation, even DFS adverts. That Tom Fletcher of the McFly half has been filling his spare time writing songs for the likes of One Direction and Five Seconds Of Summer tells you everything - these are no amateurs. But still, I would be lying if I said that my strong emotional attachment to my childhood heroes caused my heart to fill with dread at the promise of a new record, destined to mar a legacy so fun and unspoilt.

The catch? I needn't have worried. At 21 years of age, it was always unlikely that this record would come to mean much to me on a deeper level, but that's okay. Pop music doesn't always have to be everlasting. With McBusted, the purpose is simple - revive one nostalgia act (Busted), tack them on to a still semi-successful act (McFly), and send them off to tour the world, make straight-to-the-point-pop and delight fans while putting a solid investment in that pension fund. Who can blame them?

There's no way around it - 'McBusted' is a time capsule record, a celebration of things past as opposed to any attempt to win any new fans. Lead single Air Guitar sums up it's essence perfectly - upon first listen, it's a cheesy midlife crisis desperately trying to be hip; on the second, it's the sort of track you'd get up early on a Saturday morning to tape the performance of on CD:UK, the lyrics of which you'd scrawl across a banner to drag with you to Wembley arena. It's big, happy and lovable.

Setting the tone of self-deprecation that lifts the whole record, it's difficult not to put your cynicism aside and enjoy 'McBusted' once you're in on the joke and have forgotten that they're mostly married with children now. 'Sensitive Guy' is a hilarious rip of hipster culture that is probably more spot on that most of the bands who've tried it before (I'm just a super, super sensitive guy/I sleep with the light on/Got a badass eco-friendly motor-scooter to ride on), whereas 'Before You Knew Me' is loaded with sugar-rush pop-culture references that are very obviously indebted to the Busted sense of humour:

"I liked you better before you knew me
You were high definition
Now you're barely 720
You were Hannah Montana
But now you're licking things like Miley"

With so much emphasis on the vocals of McFly's Tom, and Busted's James and Matt, the McFly constituency is left fairly under-utilised, a slight annoyance when you consider that McFly's Danny is probably the groups best singer. There's no denying that this record is very Busted - 'Riding On My Bike' would have slotted nicely onto James' musical project Loserville, and 'Hate Your Guts' is so heavily indebted to Blink 182 that they went the whole hog and got Mark Hoppus to feature. 

As the band with the most chance of a separate future after this, it's not surprising that McFly have perhaps taken a back seat. And indeed, as the half with the messier history, the emotional weight of Busted's delivery works to create the record's more lasting moments. Recalling the aftermath of their initial split. 'What Happened To Your Band' is frank and open, capturing the dark humour of being forced to explain yourself to the worlds media.

"They gotta know first hand
They wanna understand
What happened to your band?
What are your future plans?
I'm like your biggest fan"


A rare moment of introspection among all the japery, it's a sign of true catharsis, offering an insight into the purpose of the project in the first place. Starting a new band is an unlikely method of closure, but perhaps it's the only medium that seemed appropriate, healing the cracks by creating new memories. Indebted to Busted as the band who opened the door for their success, this is McFly's offer of thanks and friendship, and it shows. Surely there are worse legacies to leave?

'McBusted' is available now on iTunes

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