La Roux goes back to basics on a stripped back album that pinpoints its formula to the point of resolute repetition.
‘Supervision’ was written and recorded in Elly Jackson’s Brixton kitchen, ending a wait for new material that stretches across six years. Unhappy with the major label treatment that surrounded 2014’s ‘Trouble In Paradise’, this new DIY methodology feels like a riposte to its glossy forebear, an attempt to firmly reclaim her art, and her identity.
It certainly nails down its nexus of influences – largely 80s pop, with a penchant for Prince and Nile Rodgers – but a failure to move beyond this leaves ‘Supervision’ feeling somewhat constrained, with its hand-made methodology often frustratingly undeveloped.
The slim, stripped back tracklisting contains a mere eight songs, opening with the impish, itchily contagious ’21st Century’. All dappled rhythms and clipped percussive guitar licks, it’s endearingly persuasive, but never quite fulfils its promise.
As it happens, this is a recurring feature on the album as a whole: ‘Do You Feel’ bubbles to the five minute mark, while 'Otherside’ never feels as if it is entirely sure of where it will go next.
The rather more focussed ‘Automatic Driver’ is a highlight, the sparse augmentation seeming to hone in both on Elly Jackson’s voice and of course the deliberately restricted palette. A kind of minimalist riposte to the 80s bombast that inspires her, it’s a moment of real joy, home-brewed in La Roux’s Brixton kitchen.
Singles such as ‘International Woman Of Leisure’ have their charms, but it’s ultimately spread too thinly on an album that promises much yet fails to truly extrapolate its sense of purpose. ‘He Rides’ comes and goes, while closing cut ‘Gullible Fool’ – all seven minutes of it – stumbles to the finish, more of a chore than a gift from one of Britain’s avowed pop talents.
At heart, ‘Supervision’ feels like a frustrating experience. As an exercise in reclaiming control, in setting out her stall, it is a definite success, a hand-made pop exercise in an era dominated by algorithmic marketing plans. As a listening experience, though, it’s somewhat limited and frustratingly repetitive, ultimately paling next to La Roux’s previous heights.
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