Damage : Since You’ve Been Gone

Return of pop band, in part dating Emma Bunton

As sleevenotes go it’s more [I]Hello! [/I]than ghetto fabulous. But there’s Jade Jones, one fifth of Damage, declaring his adoration for his “baby love”. Jones, if you didn’t know, is stepping out with Spice Girl Emma Bunton.

She also pops up to warble on the bump’n’grinding ‘I Don’t Know’, thereby hardly deflecting from the fact that Damage, despite the awards, screaming fans and numerous hits, are primarily tabloid fodder thanks to that romance. So, back after a three-year absence that’s seen Craig David’s garage and Destiny’s Child and their like’s infusion of sass, this should be where they decide whether they want to be credible R&B or merely remain as the street Westlife.

The results are inconclusive. ‘Sure Nuff’ is sweetly funky, ‘Ghetto Romance’ just about features the staccato production techniques that have seen the genre go supernova, but mainly this is all close harmonies, twinkly tunes and bland, meaningless soppiness spread over 16 songs of suffocating averageness.

Faced with the current trend for innovation, Damage have instead gone for safe love songs that’ll only excite the most undemanding of fans. Because, harking back to before R&B got injected with

hip-hop style, this invariably opts for schmaltz over attitude.

Jim Alexander