Album number three, and there's no sign of Steps losing steam...
Even more so than second albums, third albums are notoriously difficult in pop. For while a second album can lodge itself in the slipstream of all the excitement that comes with a debut, third albums are there to see bands ‘standing on their feet’ and ‘proving themselves’ and – call the police! – ‘taking a more mature direction’ by “writing our own material”.
Fortunately, seeing as [a]Steps[/a] have been the jewel (not necessarily the brightest, but certainly the shiniest) in Britain’s pop crown for the past couple of years, The People In Charge have taken a bit of time and effort to ensure that ‘Buzz’ doesn’t see this lot go tits up. In fact, so much care has been taken that ‘Buzz’ is better than ‘Step One’ and ‘Steptacular’ put together. And not just because its name is devoid of a crap pun on the word ‘step’.
Firstly, the songwriting is big and bold and exhilarating. Yes, even the tracks that the Stepsters have worked on themselves: Lisa‘s ‘Never Get Over You’ is an arms-aloft disco belter, for example, while Lee‘s ‘Turn Around’ gets better with every listen. Up until you’ve listened to it about 27 times, and then it sort of levels off.
There are three singles here already – including the Number One ‘Stomp’, “a tribute to Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers” (presumably so that Chic‘s lawyers didn’t get too excited) – but many more could easily come. In particular, ‘It’s The Way You Make Me Feel’ and ‘Here And Now’, the two songs to come out of Sweden, are among the best [a]Steps[/a] have ever recorded, while there has to be special mention for the Pete Waterman-produced ‘Paradise Lost’, with its nod to Nik Kershaw‘s ’80s hit ‘The Riddle’ (itself a Waterman production).
The sleeve’s a dog – Lee‘s hair needs a trim and the final ballad, ‘If You Believe’, is a bit of a mess – but ‘Buzz’ is a spectacular album, and [a]Steps[/a], should they so choose, will lead the pop brigade for some time yet.