"DNA," Little Mix (Syco/Columbia)
Almost exactly 16 years ago, the Spice Girls released their breakthrough hit "Wannabe" in Britain, when the members of the new U.K. girl group Little Mix ranged in age from 3 to 5. There's not much purpose in pointing out the superiority of the Spice Girls or mentioning other obvious Little Mix prototypes such as Destiny's Child, t.A.T.u. or TLC. The target demographic for "DNA" cares only about the here and now.
Jesy Nelson, Perrie Edwards, Leigh-Anne Pinnock and Jade Thirlwall were put together in 2011 to compete as a group on "The X Factor UK," and they ultimately won the show. "DNA" also has a kind of assembled feeling, but it proves serviceable on several counts. It couldn't have a better opener than the hook-laden power-pop single "Wings," with insistent marching drums and fired-up harmonies spreading a message of empowerment: "These wings were made to fly!" The theme resurfaces with a bit less conviction on "Change Your Life" ("We're gonna stick together, know we'll get through it all") and the embarrassingly rote "We Are Who We Are." The more the songs divert from formula, the better. Missy Elliott brings welcome funk, soul and sass to "How Ya Doin'?" while T-Boz is on hand to help the British gals pound rock allure into "Red Planet."
CHUCK CAMPBELL, Scripps Howard News Service
Dave Davies, "I Will Be Me" (Cleopatra)
Kinks guitarist Davies' role in rock history is secure after writing the riff to 1964's "You Really Got Me." What is less secure is his solo career. Davies is a classic case of a great harmony singer (with the Kinks) but a dubious lead singer. This album is a wildly schizoid affair that ranges from open-throttle guitar rock to croakingly out-of-tune ballads and bizarre electronica. He is simply all over the place while enlisting various backup acts such as punkers Anti-Flag and the Bloody Hollies to Bulgarian singer Geri X and the rootsy Jayhawks. At 66, Davies is proud of being outside society— he rails against technology in the edgy "In the Mainframe" and seeks escape in "Cote Du Rhone (I Will BeMe)," where he rips politicians and screeches "You can't do what you want anymore.'' It's fascinating to watch him thrash about, but too often it's painful. He has fun with the Kinksy "Erotic Neurotic'' and flashes some sensitivity in "The Healing Boy,'' but his uneven vocals weigh the album down.
Steve Morse, Boston Globe
Portugal. The Man, "Evil Friends"(Atlantic)
Portugal. The Man has gone pop. The Alaska band toyed with it during its previous six albums, along with psychedelic rock, orchestral arrangements, prog rock and metal. But on "Evil Friends," produced by Danger Mouse, the songs are streamlined to stick in your head while still managing deep thoughts on religion and existence. "Purple Yellow Red and Blue" gives the band's psychedelic roots a danceable beat and a bit of swagger. "Hip Hop Kids" has the feel of a stadium rock anthem, while "Creep in a T-Shirt" sounds most like Danger Mouse's work in Gnarls Barkley and Broken Bells.
GLENN GAMBOA, Newsday