The Corrs: Jupiter Calling – bludgeons your ears into submission
Forever to be remembered in the lexicon of pop culture as that “diddly aye” band with the identikit sisters and the brother in the corner, it’s hard not to think of The Corrs as existing in a vacuum, never to be released from their late nineties/early noughties time capsule.
They’re permanently trapped in this alternate universe, like Gwyneth Paltrow in Sliding Doors, a place where Natalie Imbruglia is eternally pirouetting about in her oversized combats, Robbie Williams has just discovered Frank Sinatra, and Chris Evans is a media kingpin.
This was a strange era, the last gasp of the monolithic music industry when not only was record-buying something that mattered but it was also an environment where belonging to the peculiar genre of “radio-friendly” acts was a surefire way to stardom.
It’s difficult to imagine staggeringly unhip, prematurely middle-aged bands like The Lighthouse Family, The Beautiful South or even The Corrs (to a certain extent) smashing their way through the charts of today as they did back then. They’d at least have to put an Ed Sheeran “donk” on it or wind-machine the hell out of themselves like Adele.
Back then, gentle pop/rock was the order of the day and The Corrs and their ilk peddling their inoffensive brand of bland crossed over to a huge mainstream audience.
This paved the way for pop music to be drenched in this folksy Irish-flavoured saccharine schmaltz, the soft-day of Ronan Keating and Westlife and their endless game of musical chairs.
Flushed with nostalgia
After a considerable break from the fragmented industry, The Corrs returned to a forgiving landscape flushed with nostalgia. This comeback was welcomed for a time until they served up the lukewarm dish of 2015’s White Light, which was everything everyone used to like about The Corrs but new, so obviously it disappeared without a trace.
This time around, with Jupiter Calling, they’ve tried a different approach. The airbrushed Mutt Lange-style production has been ditched for the superior knob-twiddling of King of Americana T-Bone Burnett.
Everyone knows what accomplished musicians The Corrs are – they brandish bodhráns and fiddles at will – and with this album, like their successful Unplugged turn, they attempt to darken their pop highlights and amplify their moodier, serious side, like a bratty protagonist turned sophisticate in a teen movie.
A trademark Corrs chorus that bludgeons your ears into submission
Things get off to a promising if somewhat sombre start with the mature folk of single Son of Solomon, with Andrea’s vocals taking on a hushed, huskier tone, and the warmth of the strings and trill of the tin whistle combining on the rising chorus to create a heart-swelling, old-fashioned ballad of epic proportions.
Chasing Shadows is a finger-picking, country-tinged toe-tapper with a trademark Corrs chorus that bludgeons your ears into submission even if its lyrics feature a list of worn-out cliches juxtaposed with disconcerting mentions of dishcloths and caterpillars.
Lyrics have always been an unfortunate sticking point with the band, which is amplified to risible levels on SOS (Song for Syria). Their stab at politicising instead comes across as a lost Eurovision entry. “They say the victims are dangerous, what a bitter excuse,” Andrea parps as if taking part in a lunchtime schools debate; it’s hardly criticism at its most biting or The Corrs being “outspoken”. The track is too polite to even reach the “tanks and bombs” levels of misguided political craziness of The Cranberries’ Zombie.
Searingly honest side
More effective is the concealed heartache of No Baby Go, which captures the overwhelming pain of the loss of a child. Its simple piano-led melody, raw lyrics and aching vocals show a searingly honest side to a band that has largely remained elusive.
It is perhaps instead a move to the gentler, easy-listening side of Nashville
The Dundalk troupe have always wanted to capture their own Fleetwood Mac moment of dizzy, soft-rock genius but have never quite managed it. But with Burnett’s production and their willingness to hone their sound, they’ve got a step closer to it. This might not be the grit and bitterness of the Mac at their most blissful but is perhaps instead a move to the gentler, easy-listening side of Nashville.
Unfortunately, this newfound gravitas comes unstuck when the cloying love songs take over. The atrociously titled Butter Flutter is a blast of sickly nursery-rhyme nonsense that would be considered too winsome even for a cheesy West End musical.
Hit My Ground Running echoes back to the original Corrs template of modern muzak, a wearisome slice of MOR pop that takes a long time to go nowhere, dotted with hackneyed phrases about romcom style romances.
If The Corrs truly want to make a break for the border and discard their shiny pop past, these old habits that have lazily lingered on from their record-smashing days of yore must be given a roadside burial.
Ultimately, Jupiter Calling is the Yankee Candle of albums: at first it seems fragrant and fresh, but before too long the generic scent of superstore nothingness takes over.