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Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know that Neon Jungle burst onto the pop music scene in 2013 with killer style and plenty of attitude. Their debut single ‘Trouble’ was more in line with Icona Pop than Little Mix, and with their Top 5 follow up single ‘Braveheart’, they looked set to live up to the hype they were receiving. The problem with Neon Jungle, however, was working out whether pop music really needs an alternative girl group, and if so, do they have what it takes to stay in it for the long haul. With their debut album Welcome to the Jungle, released this week, the girls prove that they mean business.
The album opens with ‘Braveheart’ which sounds as effortlessly refreshing as it did when it was released in January. Questionable rapping aside (rhyming “lettuce” with “get us” is never going to sound natural), the EDM banger is still the most exciting thing released by a girl group in 2014, and it appears that it’s success has set the tone for the rest of the LP. ‘Bad Man’ sounds like M.I.A by way of Rihanna, and helps perpetuate the ‘bad girls’ image they were aiming for with Trouble, without sounding as try-hard. When it comes to choosing a future single, this is the front runner. The quartet of ‘Bad Man’, ‘Trouble’, ‘Braveheart’ and ‘Welcome To The Jungle’ confidently illustrate that this album is cater made for nightclubs. The title track sounds like a song that was engineered specifically to be that song you hear as you’re getting off with a stranger in a club at 3am. And really, what higher compliment can I pay a song?
Luckily, Welcome To The Jungle also aims to display a more vulnerable side to the band. Fourth single ‘Louder’ shows that the girls can slow things down in a suitably dramatic fashion, while ‘Waiting Game’ aims for brooding maturity and ends up closer to solemnly boring. It’s ironic then, that despite their position as the rebellious girls of pop, the ballad that they shine brightest on is one that wouldn’t sound out of place on The Saturdays’ next album. ‘Fool Me’ bears none of the abrasive attitude of the rest of the album, but the girls sound just as confident on this vulnerable ballad, showing their potential outside of full-on club jams.
The standard edition of Welcome To The Jungle is a pleasantly concise effort, running just 10 tracks long, while the deluxe edition offers two more original tracks, two acoustic versions and a cover. Of the new songs, it’s ‘Future X Girl’ which really deserves a place on the standard edition, if solely for the delightfully ridiculous opening chant. Their cover of Hozier’s ‘Take Me To Church’ brings some much needed soul to the album, and as the final track of the deluxe edition, I’m hoping that this cover is an indication of what to expect from their follow up album.
Overall, this album is an impressive introduction to Neon Jungle. The singles they’ve released haven’t showcased much versatility but the album rectifies this, and I for one would be happy to see the girls take their title of ‘next big thing’ and run with it. They’ve injected some much needed adrenaline into the British pop scene, and Welcome To The Jungle reassures me that they’ll continue spicing things up for years to come.