I know what you’re going to ask. This is Atomic Kitten’s debut album Right Now, so I know before you say anything what we need to clarify. Is this the actual first album, released in March 2000, or is it the second release from August 2001, re-recorded with the band’s new line-up after Kerry Katona left? Well, it’s the second release, featuring the new line-up of Liz McClarnon, Jenny Frost and Natasha Hamilton. Here they are now, looking improbably youthful and slightly distracted.
Your knowledge of the history of Atomic Kitten is obvious from the fact that you immediately asked such an insightful question. But there is a lot more to this band than meets the eye. We all know they are the band that did “Whole Again”, which was a massive hit all over the world, and we all know they gave the nation Kerry Katona. (In the years I lived in Warrington the local paper’s front page story was about her most weeks, and the headline usually referred to as “Our Kerry”. It’s how I still think of her now.) But that’s just the tip of a surprising iceberg.
Did you know, for example, that the band was formed by Andy McCluskey and Stuart Kershaw, from the critically acclaimed and very serious 80s electronic band Orchestral Maneouvres in the Dark, after they were given the idea by a member of Kraftwerk? No, really. They wanted a new outlet for their songs because OMD weren’t fashionable any more, and they wrote most of this album. Did you know that the original lineup included Heidi from the Sugababes, who left before they’d recorded any music to go and be a Sugababe? Did you know that Kerry Katona rejoined the band and then left it a second time?
This is clearly a complex band with a surprisingly weird musical pedigree. What on earth will their second attempt at recording their first album sound like? Let’s find out.
|Track||Word 1||Word 2||Word 3||Word 4|
|1. Right Now||Very||unexpected||disco||sound|
|2. Follow Me||Twinkly||2000s||girly||pop|
|3. Whole Again||You||know||this.||Ugh|
|4. Eternal Flame||Bangles||with||RnB||beats|
|5. Tomorrow and Tonight||I||think||they’re||rapping|
|6. Get Real||Sassy||song||about||nothing|
|7. Turn Me On||More||disco,||less||good|
|9. You Are||LeAnn||Rimes||meets||Eternal|
|11. Bye Now||Much||like||previous||two|
|13. See Ya||B*witched||saying||bye||bye|
|14. I Want Your Love||Oh||god||so||jiggy|
In case you’re bothered, the first twelve tracks are listed on the back of the album as “right now” and are the new band. The last two are titled “back then” and still have Kerry Katona’s vocals on them, presumably because nobody cared enough to change them. But then the whole album is a really weird mix of stuff. It’s not your regular 90s/00s girl band stuff, though it does have songs that float around in that space between the Spice Girls, Eternal and B*witched.
Track 1 absolutely ambushed me with an unexpected full-on disco sound. I’d never heard it before but it was genuinely quite catchy and likeable, and I wondered whether I was in for an album I’d enjoy, leaving open the worrying possibility that I had lost my mind. Thankfully that illusion was destroyed by the other songs. The first track, by the way, is shamelessly just about sex – the chorus goes “come on baby, do it to me good now, do it to me slowly, be the one and only, and do it to me right now”. Blimey.
Track 2 wouldn’t sound out of place on Uncle Kracker’s album. Then there’s several songs full of twinkly production sounds and RnB vocals of the kind that all boy bands and girl bands were doing around this time. There’s Whole Again, which you know, and the cover of Eternal Flame, which I’d mercifully forgotten until I listened to this. Then you get into the album tracks and it gets weirder.
Get Real makes literally no sense, and may be about dislocating bones. Its chorus goes “oh baby, let your backbone slip, let it slide right down, put it on your hip”. Track 7 samples “Ring My Bell”, which brings us back to disco briefly, before we then slide into a murky pond of increasingly forgettable girly pop. Track 12 ends with a disconcerting full minute of silence, and the album finally concludes with an all-out assault of noisy shouting over a sample of “The Big Country”, which is a film score from the 1950s that you’d know if you heard it.
In all, this album is quite a ride, and only becomes more strange and troubling when you realise how many times it was made, how many different people made it (we haven’t even got into the Japanese and Malaysian releases, which are different again, but you can read that for yourself on Wikipedia) and who wrote it. The whole thing is exhausting. In summary, I would say that my favourite thing about this album is track 1, which I only listened to once along with the rest of the album but am considering listening to again just to see if I was hallucinating the first time round. My least favourite thing was some teenage scousers having a go at rapping. Nobody needs that.