Album: La Roux, La Roux, (Polydor)
After the hype, can La Roux live up to the hairdo?
Sunday 28 June 2009
Elly Jackson's opinion of herself and her band is higher than her vertiginous quiff, if recent interviews with the 20-year-old are any guide, so it's time for her and shadowy sidekick Ben Langmaid to deliver on those cocky promises.
The first minor surprise is that the move from the small French electronic label Kitsuné to Polydor hasn't resulted in any significant buffing-up of the unpolished La Roux synth-pop sound, which remains retro and lo-fi rather than futuristic and state of the art.
Much of the time, La Roux sound strangely distorted, like the backing music from an early 1990s Sega Mega Drive game turned up to 11. Which isn't as irritating as it might seem on paper; in fact, it can even be rather charming ("Fascination", which could be Vince Clarke-era Depeche Mode, being an especially effective example).
The singer's startlingly, almost comically shrill vocals were no obstacle to La Roux scoring their first bona fide hit single with "In For the Kill" (which hit the No 2 slot in April and stayed there for a month), but over the long haul they might grate.
Wisely, once or twice (on the tough-talking "Bulletproof", for instance) Jackson opts to sing in a "normal" register. She's a moderately intriguing lyricist too, swinging between laying her emotions on the line ("Been there, done that, messed around/ I'm having fun don't put me down/ I'll never let you sweep me off my feet", from "Bulletproof") and putting up a 50ft wall. (The meaning of the line "All the shadows that I walk in are just my volatile second skin", from the cryptically titled "Reflections Are Protection", is anyone's guess.)
La Roux's tunes aren't always totally original either – "In for the Kill" is based on the theme tune from the 1980s cartoon Pole Position, while the new single "I'm Not Your Toy" borrows from Prince's "When Doves Cry" – but then whose are?
The boasts weren't pure bluff after all: Elly's got away with it.
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