Thirteen years after their last LP and a very public break-up, Busted are back with their third studio album, and like Aqua when they returned with a belated album number three and decided to grow up their musical style, so have Busted. But instead of keeping the pop credentials and adding swear words like Aqua did, Busted have ditched their earlier pop credentials and matured into something a little bit more 80s and electronic, and then added swearing, and I think fans of their big radio hitters will be taken aback by the change of direction.
That's not to say it's not a good album, but it's not at all related to the trio that brought us 'Crashed the Wedding' and 'Crash and Burn'. 'Night Driver' is a rather experimental and darker record, as shown by the opening track and best song on the record 'Coming Home', released several months ago as a teaser. This gritty rough electronic number manages to straddle somewhere between their radio-friendly choruses of old with something much more experimental, and is very catchy and, above all, exciting, and aside from a couple of exceptions the album never quite hits the heights of experimentation and willingness to do something different and very distinctive showcased in this song.
The title track which comes next is all drum machines and synth but isn't as interesting as the production makes it sound, but the chorus is pretty good. Latest single 'On What You're On', with its Daft Punk-style effects and vocodor, is one of the big highlights of the record and is definitely the direction they should continue to head in, and again has a good catchiness to it whilst adding the credibility they never had on their first run through.
Track four 'New York' takes things down a notch but outside of a few moments in the bridge and chorus is pretty forgettable. 'Thinking of You' again doesn't really set the album alight but 'Without It' as much better number and has some good attitude and energy to what is actually quite a slow song, and the lyrics feel stronger when paired with the 80s feel.
'One of a Kind' is the best song on the record with a catchy poppy chorus and a general fun vibe, mixed in with the great synths. 'I Will Break Your Heart' kicks up the pace a little and is a good follow-up whilst 'Kids with Computers', like the opener, feels like the band are in fresh territory and doing something interesting with their new found musical confidence and feels like the one with the most commentary on their maturity, and after 'One of a Kind' this should be a single.
Entering the final three tracks 'Easy' is an electro-ballad and not a bad follow-up; 'Out of Our Minds' is one of the best on the album with another fun chorus and general feel; whilst 'Those Days Are Gone' sees Charlie take the main lead and ties things everything up in a smoother, less bombastic way.
Fans of classic Busted will find this a considerable departure from their earlier material and though I would have enjoyed hearing a poppier album credit has to go to the band for delivering something much more interesting both lyrically and in terms of production. The combination of their three vocals and a new found maturity work well, and tracks like 'Coming Home', 'On What You're On', 'One of a Kind', 'Kids with Computers' and 'Out of our Minds' make for five big hits with the rest not shaming them.
'Night Driver' is not Busted as we know them but that's not a bad thing; well done on the trio for doing something much more experimental, interesting and well produced. It could perhaps do with a little lightening up here and there but they had a vision and stuck with it. (7/10)