La Roux review, Supervision: Strangely lifeless album sounds as though it was made on autopilot

Compared to the luscious textures of 2014’s ‘Trouble in Paradise’, Elly Jackson’s latest work feels rather lacklustre

Roisin O'Connor
Wednesday 05 February 2020 19:08 GMT
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The ‘Bulletproof’ singer claims her latest work is the record she's ‘always wanted to make’
The ‘Bulletproof’ singer claims her latest work is the record she's ‘always wanted to make’ (Andrew Whitton)

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

Editor

Elly Jackson is nothing if not inconsistent. Six years since the last La Roux album, Trouble in Paradise – which in turn arrived four years after the former duo’s self-titled 2009 debut – she returns with Supervision, a record hailed in accompanying press releases as the one she “always wanted to make”.

Coming back after the triumph of Trouble in Paradise is an unenviable task. That album is regarded by many as 2014’s best pop album; its luscious textures and languid pacing – not to mention the cool California tones of the album art – were as evocative as a David Hockney painting. Supervision, by contrast, is bright but strangely lifeless, like the diamonds on a Damien Hirst sculpture. Jackson, meanwhile, sounds brittle, as though she’s become frustrated in attempting to carve a single, unpolished idea into multiple tracks. What she ends up with is an album she could have made on autopilot.

Jackson scrapped an entire record before beginning to write songs for Supervision in her kitchen; she went to produce it in and around Brixton. It’s not the first time this had happened (she suffered a number of false starts before Trouble in Paradise finally landed), and you wonder whether any music left on the cutting room floor after Trouble has ended up here. I suggest this because Nile Rodgers, with whom Jackson has previously collaborated, is all over Supervision – from the “Get Lucky” twang on “Do You Feel” to the scratchy funk riffs of the title track and “21st Century”. Elsewhere, her Eighties obsession continues in the George Michael-esque “Everything I Live For”, where she expresses a fear of the modern world.

Not one track runs under four minutes, while most pass the five-minute mark, suggesting Jackson is eschewing current pop trends (the average chart hit runs at just over three minutes) in favour of delayed gratification via slow-builds and shifting textures. Yet the effect of this, given the repetitive nature of the instrumentation and Jackson’s famous, glass-shattering falsetto, is somewhat numbing. It’s hard not to compare Supervision to the dazzling highs of Georgia’s Chicago house-obsessed Seeking Thrills; on Supervision you crave movement, something to get you dancing. How you yearn for her early smashes “Bulletproof” and “In for the Kill”, with their fiery guitar licks and squelchy synths. Supervision is certainly not a bad album, but it’s a far cry from the bristling pop genius of Jackson’s best work.

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