Album: Natalie Imbruglia

White Lilies Island, RCA
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The Independent Culture

It's surprising how far one single can carry a performer, providing it's the right single, of course. In Natalie Imbruglia's case, the lone success of "Torn" sold millions of copies of its parent album, Left of the Middle, in the process establishing her as secret poster-girl for a generation of indie lads with unfulfilled protective instincts. Small wonder, then, that the follow-up single that leads off this second album, "That Day", should seek to replicate that same mood of emotional turmoil through breathless recitation of the circumstances that leave Nat not torn or naked on the floor, but "Sad, scared, small, alone, beautiful", which could be her answer to one of those magazine character tests that asks you to choose the five words that best summarise your personality. That done, however, there's no clear idea of where to go next – hardly surprising, given the scrum of producers (among them Ian Stanley, Gary Clark and Phil Thornalley) jostling to guide her career in one direction or another. The result leaves White Lilies Island resembling Baby Spice's solo debut: winsome, candy-coated indie-pop with big ambitions but no real focus or conviction, its token emulations of such as Garbage ("Sunlight") and U2 ("Beauty on the Fire") failing to ignite the bland atmosphere. It's not short of prospective hits – both "Wrong Impression" and the anthemic "Goodbye" are attractive candidates – but it's ultimately a meek-sounding record, with any rough edges smoothed out and Imbruglia rarely stretching for a persuasive emotional expression.