Lesson two of five in nostalgia…
Debut album from tipped popster...
It would be pretty easy to go through this album like a cleaver through beef. Yes, beef. Expectations decree that it’ll come across as a predictable assortment of similarly structured pop nuggets that extol softcore narratives and break about as many barriers as a feather, on a marshmallow, on a tissue, on a sponge. What I'm trying to say: it's lightweight. But then again, so what if it is?
'Stuck On Repeat' steals the early attention. A croaking opening synth line breaks into melody simultaneously with Victoria Hesketh a.k.a. Little Boots' vocals, backed by eerie sighs and a rare sadness of tone. A typical pop structure is flipped by focusing all melodic hooks on the verse, ultimately isolating the vocals in the chorus and yielding a sentient timbre.
The album is too dreamy and cheesy to connect with on an emotional level, making it absolutely perfect to get lost in and drift with. One embarks on a sort of aural wandering, which is actually quite satisfying in its own refreshing escape from anything that matters just a little too much. Yet, occasionally the nonsensical irrelevance can require the saltiest of pinches to tolerate – this is demonstrated mid-album by the Eurovision dance-pop fondue pot that is 'Remedy'. For all the damage that this reference will do, there is a definite resonance of Steps’ 'Better Best Forgotten' in here, married with chain nightclub dancefloor elements that have been bleeding from such chart jockeys as Lady Gaga and La Roux of late.
The more controlled maturity of earlier album tracks returns in 'Ghosts', which manages to charm rather than repel with enjoyable simplicity, humbly directed more by the ebb and flow of Hesketh’s vocals than the favoured reliance on synth hooks. Then 'Symmetry' kicks in and it all goes to shit again. To complete the arsenal of pop clichés, the lyrics begin to flirt with wordplay so blatant it could be used on fridge magnets: "You're the night to my day, and the left to my right." How sweet. This is worsened by a rogue Philip Oakey who manages to wander into earshot with his own dumbed-down literary technique - "You're the high to my low, and the give to my take" – before skittering back into whichever mid-‘80s gap in the time/space continuum he managed to totter through.
Where Little Boots gets her head down, she showcases an ability to devise rhythms of clinical infection. Forthcoming single 'New In Town' gathers energetic momentum and is delivered with the sassy nonchalance that made Santogold so intriguing. 'Hearts Collide' reiterates her stake for attention by gliding at a later-period Minogue-paced unwind. Not this writer’s usual taste, but consistent and original enough to appeal and necessitate a level of appreciation – likewise the aforementioned peak of ‘Stuck On Repeat’.
'Hands' falls victim to attempts to reach beyond more boundaries than necessary, and thus ironically loses the concentration of the more earnest listener. Yet aside from a clutch of truly banal tracks, it can be accepted as a playful and rather dainty debut. And, when greeted for what it is rather than approached with a unachievable expectance, it flourishes as well as any tin of Ronseal pop.