Album: Helicopter Girl

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The Independent Culture

This follow-up to Helicopter Girl's Mercury-nominated debut, How to Steal the World, brings into sharper focus the limitations of Jackie Joyce's approach, which relies too heavily on the presumed appeal of a voice that's as much Eartha Kitt as it is Billie Holiday, and self-consciously spooky, shapeless arrangements that prize atmosphere over substance. The greatest drawback is her lyrics, which reflect similar priorities, often appearing to be assembled from random impressions with little narrative logic. The title Voodoo Chic accurately conveys the affected nature of the proceedings, which become a bit of a Portisheadache after a few tracks. The most authentic voodoo ambience derives from the samples of Dr John's "Gris Gris Gumbo Ya Ya" in "Jakarta Flatline", while elsewhere the settings (produced by either Paul Statham or the Past Present Organisation) range from relaxed to lazy, with burring organ or jazzy sax providing the main textural appeal of tracks such as "Rivermouth" and "Her Lucille". The most memorable song is Tim Buckley's "Blue Melody", rendered in a tropical lilt of piano and congas that's identical to the original, except that Helicopter Girl's vocal limitations drain off all of the emotional energy Buckley invested in the song. Depressing, but not in an attractive way.