Universal Island - 2003 - 57 minutes

The old adage "If it ain't broke, then don't fix it" rings true here as the Sugababes follow last year's excellent 'Angels with Dirty Faces' with a musical offering full of the style, attitude and rich diversity that has typified their work to date.

Where 'Angels...' established Heidi, Keisha and Mutya as a cut above their peers with a unique brand of R&B/hip hop and pop, 'Three' confirms their status as standard bearers in a genre devoid of genuine quality - see Atomic Kitten/Girls Aloud, etc.

Hits such as 'Round, Round', 'Freak Like Me' and 'Stronger' put the 'Babes firmly on the map following their modest 2000 debut album 'One Touch', and from the very first listen of 'Three' it is obvious that more hits beckon for the English trio. First up is the band's stylish debut single 'Hole In The Head' which has already made an impression on both sides of the Irish Sea, while the atmospheric ballad 'Caught in a Moment' is very much in the mould of 'Stronger' and sure to be a future release.

'Conversation's Over' is another highlight, as is the rolling 'Situation's Heavy', while the album as a whole leaves a lasting impression on the palate and the memory. In fact, there isn't a bad track in 14, although 'Nasty Ghetto' and 'Maya' are weaker moments but worthy of inclusion nonetheless. Vocally the trio are superb, meandering through the usual relationship woes, touching on topics such as deception, obsession and breaking up while also demonstrating the defiance, confidence and optimism that you would expect from such a driven and talented outfit.

'Three' is an album to be enjoyed, be it cranked up loud as you get ready for a night out or as a backdrop to an intimate evening with a loved one.

Shane Murray

Tracklisting: Hole In The Head - Whatever Makes You Happy - Caught In A Moment - Situation's Heavy - Million Different Ways - Twisted - We Could Have It All - Conversation's Over - In The Middle - Too Lost In You - Nasty Ghetto - Buster - Sometimes - Maya