La Roux - La Roux

La Roux - La Roux

A sharp, bold effort that should be so much more of a talking point than an avant-grade hairstyle. If, when time passes, the quiff is more of a conversation starter than this self-titled debut album, you’ll know things could have gone better.

Rating:

Is the battle for the Queen of Pop 2009 dictated by image? ‘Hands’ has become a relative flop of sorts, ‘Lungs’ looks to do quite the opposite. Maybe the difference between Florence Welch and Victoria Hesketh is that Welch now has this harp-playing-nu-Kate-Bush thing going for her, whilst there was nothing in the promotional campaign for Little Boots’ debut album that was provocative or new. With La Roux you have what many would first cite before, and indeed if, they talk of the music: the hair. It’s opened eyes, turned heads and helped Elly Jackson become something of a talking point. But musically, the homage to Depeche Mode and everything that inspired Depeche Mode, is in the form of a sharp, bold effort that should be so much more of a talking point than an avant-grade hairstyle. If, when time passes, the quiff is more of a conversation starter than this self-titled debut album, you’ll know things could have gone better.

But when the first six tracks of an album are all potential number 1 singles, you have to take notice. ‘La Roux’ is a record company’s goldmine, something that completely eradicates any anti-pop stance Jackson seems to take in her attitude. ‘In For The Kill’ provoked the kind of “what is that song?!” reaction only the very best of pop music can, setting the agenda before a more delicate ‘Tigerlily’, disjointed, quirky pop song ‘Quicksand’, number 1 single ‘Bulletproof’, the perfect chorus in ‘Colourless Colour’ and the familiar break-neck 80s pop in ‘I’m Not Your Toy’; each and every one of them meeting the high standard set.

Production is the primary colour, the guidance for which Jackson follows. During recording she was ending a relationship and in a sense you can hear the mixed emotions, the trembling in the varied hushes and tones of her voice, produced so that harmonies emerge from the very same voice. It’s an old pop-production trick, one that cannot be replicated live but here it’s at its finest.

It would be ignorant, foolish to dismiss this album on merit of becoming tired of the electro-pop sound. Passion Pit drove it to its tether with ‘Manners’, to the point we were choking on the processed synthetics. But somehow, ‘La Roux’ is as human as any exposed country performer, with only an acoustic guitar to boast, and you begin to wonder whether that’s merely due to the vocals. Jackson is not a talented singer. Nor would she get past the first round on a televised talent show. But her delivery is earnest, acting out the range of emotions rummaging around the record, from triumph in ‘Bulletproof’ to complete and utter defeat in token album ballad ‘Cover My Eyes’. And for that, this record is unique. In ‘Manners’, all you hear is Michael Angelakos’ stirring, discomforting falsetto and little meaning alongside. Jackson is one of a kind, strangely enough. Lyrics on their own look basic and even cheap on occasion; when sung, they somehow glow.

Because of the regurgitation of this now “safe” electro sound, you almost seek to dismiss Jackson’s debut. She’s an easy target – on the brink of stardom but also teetering on the edge of being brought back down to Earth. But any dismissal that springs to mind, once thought out, can be defeated. Because when you pay close attention to every sharp jolt of a drum rhythm, every shake in Jackson’s phonetics, you begin to see the album as an unlikely hero, like the woman herself.

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