Monday 23 October 2017

Back to the future for La Roux on new album

La RouxTrouble In Paradise (Polydor)

It's five years since La Roux first appeared with her exaggerated quiff and brittle synth-pop sound.

The retro-nuovo hits In For The Kill and Bulletproof showed the 21-year-old had the pop smarts to stick the pace with the likes of Lady Gaga and Florence and the Machine.

But 2009 seems a lifetime away. Since then Lady Gaga has gone on to achieve global iconic status and, such as been her relentless drive towards pop immortality, maybe even attract the attention of alien lifeforms on distant galaxies.

By comparison, La Roux all but disappeared.

There was a sense that perhaps her game was up. It had been clear from the start that Elly Jackson, the young woman who traded as La Roux, had difficulty with the demands of the celebrity that came with her pop success.

We're told of panic attacks, hypochondria and the horror of losing her falsetto vocal range. La Roux's debut album was the result of years of work with Jackson's collaborator and producer, Ben Langmaid.

Unfortunately, there was a falling out. We're told the dispute centred on musical and artistic differences. It's all settled now. And, although Langmaid co-writes four tracks, in comes new collaborator Ian Sherwin.

Quiff

Also in is a stylish makeover that sees the La Roux quiff now resemble a snog between Bowie circa Young Americans and A Flock of Seagulls, whose 1982 debut album artwork seems to have inspired La Roux's brash new pop art colour scheme.

Important as these details are, it's how the music sounds that will determine whether La Roux can carry on where she left off.

Producer Sherwin appears to have brought a unique blend into the studio. Into it, himself and La Roux have piled vintage tracks by Grace Jones, Tom Tom Club, Bowie, Chic and enough 80s synth pop acts to keep anoraks occupied for months.

On the brighter side of Miami Vice and Beverly Hills Cop, La Roux now soundtracks a lost world of disco fun, colour and sexual ambiguity. Nile Rodgers' muted funk guitar is reprised on Uptight Downtown.

Daft Punk's Lose Yourself to Dance seems to inform the loping sunshine groove Tropical Chancer but the repetitive chorus wears thin quickly. The jingle-tastic Kiss and Not Tell fares better, conjuring images of nights when the audience on Top of the Pops entertained us. Sexotheque cleverly mixes Soul 11 Soul and The Tweets.

Cruel Sexuality, one of a few songs referencing sex, teases us about La Roux's androgyny.

Reinventing an era when George Michael made the shuttlecock an unlikely fashion accessory, La Roux's nine track album brims with bright melodies, bubbly hooks and boppy beats.

It's the pop sound of summer.

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