Review: La Roux – La Roux

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Tipped in many polls at the start of 2009 as a contender for success, La Roux were possibly always thought of as the wild card in the bunch with many pitting the duo against the shinier Little Boots. Elly Jackson’s magnificent quiff of red hair, and high pitched, cutting tones certainly aren’t for everyone, but the retro styling of her and producer Ben Langmaid’s music has quickly burrowed its way into the hearts of the nation.

While the magnetic Quicksand was first to tantalise our earbuds on limited release last year, it was instead the almost unpleasant-to-listen-to In For The Kill that swept these competitors out of the water, positioned her as the year’s most exciting new talent and landed her a massive chart hit. That shrill vocal might mean the self titled debut album is not something you’re likely to listen to all in one go in a high pressure situation, but it’s one jam-packed with killer pop song after killer pop song.

The frantic Tigerlily is a good indication of what’s ahead, as a strange synth harpsichord eventually gives way to a starring role from Elly’s father in a Vincent Price-aping spooky spoken word interlude. With the whole album centered around the break up of a twisted love affair, Bulletproof, with its candy floss chorus, might initially sound happier, but as Elly snarls that she’s, ”been there, done that, messed around” proves anything but. That newly resolute persona continues strong with the minimal I’m Not Your Toy and the “early 90s decor” of Colourless Colour. While the pair might be denying a heavy 80s influence in interviews, their music is filied with allusions to the likes of Yazoo, Aneka and The Human League particularly on the euphoric chorus of monster tune Fascination and the delightfully bleak Reflections Are Protections.

Establishing themselves as one of our most exciting new pop acts, La Roux have mastered their debut. Never has something so tinny sounded so good.

Originally published at BBC Music.

Eurovision 2009

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Some people are scarily obsessed with Eurovision. To my friends, I probably seem the obsessed one, but in my case it’s only mild. However, in 2006, thanks to a couple of press passes and a why not attitude, my friend Darren and I went off to Helsinki to check the contest out. It was amazing. Finland was so excited to be hosting the contest and everyone but the UK seemed to be taking it deadly seriously. Of course, we sent Scooch, and fully deserved the bottom two placing we got.

Last year, I became Lucio’s official Eurovision ‘correspondent’ on Capital FM in London and had great fun engaging London in the contest. We discussed who the UK should represent, were horrified when the decision was made and then took to deciding which country London should vote for. We went for Ukraine’s strut-tastic Shady Lady and Ani Lorak even dropped in for a chat.

So this year, we’re claiming to take it a bit more seriously, mainly by getting the bizarrely endearing should be couple of Graham Norton and Andrew Lloyd Webber involved. ‘Your Country Needs You’ replaces ‘Making Your Mind Up’ and started on BBC1 last night. At times it was spit at your drink funny but we didn’t seem to take the advice of Europe with the idea that we need to send an actual professional performer. Although Jade will certainly satisfy Adrian’s strutting criteria, surely her failure to make it so far, despite being signed twice must be an indication. The twins are frankly annoying and already failed at X Factor this year and Emperors of Soul were pointless. Solo men traditionally don’t do very well, so despite Damien and Mark seeming the most professional, I’m not sure they’ll win. That leaves the slightly lacklustre Charlotte. Not a brilliant selection – but in reality it’s more about the song. If Webby can pull together a fabulous ballad, then we’ll be in with a chance.

I’m vaguely tempted to go again this year, just because I really want to go to Moscow anyway and it’s a good excuse. I shall ponder.

Review: Take That – Circus

Staging a comeback far bigger than any of us could have imagined, it’s now time for Take That – The Man Band to release their 2nd album since returning to their adoring fanbase looking slightly crinkly. Circus, coincidentally released on the same day as Britney’s album of the same name, is it, and we’re pleased to report it’s pretty damn amazing.

Modern day Take That are like the drama faces of Melpomene and Thalia. Gary Barlow, the graceful swan of the group, is cementing his position as the country’s premier pop writer by dripping tragedy over soaring, epic ballads. Melancholy lament ‘What Is Love’ has Howard shining on lead vocals, questioning ‘the science of fate’ while title track ‘The Circus’ says it best with ‘I’m the only clown you’ll ever know. I love you was too many words to say’. The brilliant ‘Rule The World’ might be hard to top but opening track ‘The Garden’ and the perky ‘Hold Up The Light’ have that same magical feel. With songs like this, we’re left curious why they went with the relatively lacklustre ‘Greatest Day’ as lead single.

Then there’s Mark Owen, representing comedy, still happily bouncing about like ‘Clementine’ was as big a hit as it should have been and creating adorable upbeat pop songs Paul McCartney would be proud to sing. If Morrisons have ruined ‘Shine’ for you, then the cheeky ‘Hello’ will happily take its place in your heart. ‘Julie’ puts Mark in story telling mode and almost feels like a sequel to Babe, but the real highlight is the utterly catchy ‘Up All Night’ complete with a proper oom pah pah band and skip down the street chorus – we can just imagine the video with Take That clad in drummer outfits with big shiny silver buttons.

A stunning album, Take That are the vintage champagne of pop fizzing with playful bubbles and happily maturing with age.

Originally written for BBC Music.