It starts with a chant: “T, L, TLC”. For a second we almost want to die, but then TLC talk about wanting ‘no scrubs chasing waterfalls’ and we want to fully implode into a black hole of self-referential embarrassment.
It’s a shame that this is the first taste you get of the new self-titled TLC album, because it really is better than the ‘ageing auntie’ fears we might have had. Of course there’s a huge part of the group missing, but TLC still manage to preserve both their old-school R&B sound and the memory of Left Eye with a classy and surprisingly relevant record.
In a time where everything is so damn affected, there’s something quite special about TLC’s sound feeling so organic. If it’s throwback then it feels natural on Way Back, all the elements melding together like it’s a vintage TLC jam brought up to speed for a new generation. The vocals are fresh and ridiculously on-point on Perfect Girls, a proper summer R&B jam that not even genre upstarts have managed in recent years.
Of course, there are a few jarring moments, as It’s Sunny does turn out to be as cringe as the title with it’s September-sampling Zumba class vibe; the “haters gonna hate” chorus of Haters is as much of a misfire as it seems on paper. But there’s class by the bucketload here, whether it’s Start A Fire and its acoustic route or the come-hither raunch of Scandalous. And with Left Eye very poignantly appearing on an interlude, it seems certain that they’ve not only done her proud, but the legion of fans who were rooting for this comeback. Get stuck in.