Album: Sophie Ellis-Bextor

Shoot from the Hip, Polydor

Heated theological discussions were concluded recently with biblical scholars confirming that the Apocalypse would be signalled by either a plague of boils or the appearance of a second album from Sophie Ellis-Bextor, whichever was the more ghastly. And, frankly, it's a close-run thing. From its smugly self-regarding title to its empty, careerist contents, Shoot from the Hip is an affront to public taste and decency, quite the most soul-destroying album I've had to listen to this year. Worse, even, are its presumptions of authentic style and cleverness - none of the Pop Idol and Fame Academy wannabes would suppose they were being ironic in singing of "making music by numbers", as Ellis-Bextor does here, doubtless fondly imagining that she is pre-empting criticism. With her various collaborators - principally, Damian Le Gassick, Gregg Alexander and Matt Rowe - she has fashioned a series of largely characterless electro-pop settings with a distinct Eighties-kitsch flavour but with none of that era's futurist gleam. "Mixed Up World" is typical, reprising an old Human League format, and even several of their beats and chord-changes, for an anodyne account of how messed up things are today - conveniently overlooking the contribution her brand of prefabricated pop has made to the death of the spirit in our times. Simply appalling.

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