TLC, the iconic ’90s-era girl group, is back after 15 years away and these women are clearly not wasting anymore time. “We don’t need no introduction,” they boast on the first song of their new self-titled CD. “No, we don’t need no instructions/We already paved the way.”
They’re right. For those of you who have no idea whom TLC is, we’ll wait while you go to the closest older person who can explain how important “No Scrubs,” ″Waterfalls” and “Creep” were for a generation raised on the band’s mix of female empowerment and socially conscious lyrics. (Ed Sheeran is clearly a fan — he had to credit the band’s “No Scrubs” for his hit “Shape of You.“)
Back? OK. The self-titled album is from the surviving members, Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas. Lisa “Left-Eye” Lopes died in a 2002 car crash. The new album heartbreakingly includes an old recording of Lopes’ voice as an interlude, a nice way to include her in 2017.
As for the album, funded in part by Kickstarter, it’s a kaleidoscope of different sounds and moods, befitting an album with some 20 different songwriters. It’s executive-produced by Ron Fair, who has worked with Vanessa Carlton and the Pussycat Dolls, while Watkins had a hand in almost every song.
It veers from the stripped-down acoustic of “Perfect Girls” — a sort of updated “Unpretty” — to the R&B-flavored “Joy Ride.” There’s a techno-touched “Scandalous” and a ’70s-disco boogie “It’s Sunny,” which samples Earth Wind & Fire.
Watkins and Thomas look back a few times — they take a nostalgia tour with Snoop Dogg on “Way Back” that name-checks Prince and Marvin Gaye — and forward with the electro-poppy “Haters.” They get serious on the haunting protest song “American Gold.”
You want coherence? Well, it’s overrated. This is TLC, after all. It’s just a joy to hear them again and to have it be with a new, strong joyous album seems even better. We’ve waited long enough. What are you waiting for?
Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits