TLC (852 Musique/Liberator)
It would be nice to say TLC have made a good album, a signing off from a career which was pretty fabulous for a start and set the path for any number of others since.
The thinking might be a little patronising, a kind of “well, they were great once and deserve a ride into the sunset”, but it’s true they deserve a gesture of thanks so who cares if what looks like their last record isn’t that good really? We’ll pass quickly and get on to talking once again about the never-topped No Scrubs.
The problem with such a thought however, is that there is no need for patronising or fudging: this self-titled record from T-Boz and Chilli is genuinely good, maybe even very good.
It’s certainly got at least three songs which you’ll be happy to slip into your TLC mixtape alongside Unpretty, Waterfalls and Creep.
The first of them is Way Back, which effectively tops and tails the album - there is an introductory/flag flying track, called No Introduction which rides on some lowjack rhythm, before the first appearance of Way Back that is then reprised in a slightly longer version to close the record.
In both versions it has a loping groove that is pure 1990s LA, a flute-like synth riff, a typically easy-on-the-flow visit from Snoop Dogg, a chorus which flows with even more liquid ease, and a lyric which is about a relationship reminiscing on the best times with a call for restoration and longevity (with bonus music giant references such as Marvin Gaye and Prince), that can easily be applied to the ongoing TLC story.
“It’s still nothing but a thing to pick up where we left off,” they sing. “Let go of all that other shit.” Given I tend to spend this song finger-snapping like I was a member of the Pips, this sounds fine advice to me.
Then there’s It’s Sunny which is an amalgamation of Earth Wind & Fire’s September given a late ‘80s makeover with a take on Bobby Herb’s Sunny, but is best understood as the most joy-filled fun you’ll have on or off an under-lit dancefloor in cork heels. I’d put on some hip huggers and a fur collar straight off and if this isn’t on all end of year dance party compilations it would be a travesty.
And Scandalous is something from Madonna’s early 21st century coming: low squelching sounds, easy strut rhythm, a layer of desire on top of a layer of disquiet, and a pressing need to be remixed toot sweet for extra pleasures.
Elsewhere Perfect Girls is limber and pretty, offers a firm not to No Scrubs, but also remains firm footed emotionally; Aye MuthaFucka is tough minded but smoothly dressed; Haters hunts like a Sia song for Rhianna making out in an Atlanta club; and American Gold packages the album’s most overtly political lines (from a group always keener on personal rather than legislative politics) in a mid-tempo cruise.
Add some personal affirmations of the be strong/be yourself nature and you’ve got the TLC package which is anything but a patch up job. And certainly more than a charity case for a farewell.
If TLC is the last thing TLC do it shames no one and pleases a lot.