Emerging pop duo La Roux have been making waves in the UK for little over a year now, propelled by a torrent of grandiose predictions for pop music in 2009 and an imaginary feud pitting the duo against Ms. Victoria Little Boots Hesketh; an invisible tangle concocted entirely by the media. Prior to their debut, the duo forged a fast friendship with NME Magazine and won the loyalty of many a member of the “indie crowd” for lead singer Eleanor Jackson‘s off-color candor regarding fellow pop stars, the industry, and mostly everything else in the world. And so, the stage was set for La Roux.
The album is constructed with a hearty nod to the influences behind the recording process–namely Human League, Heaven 17, and Blancmange–whether Jackson would like to acknowledge it or not.
And now for the deal breaker: Elly Jackson’s voice is shrill and unpleasant; a tinny, dry falsetto with all the obnoxious flutter of a mosquito trapped in the ear. As a result, I found myself unable to warm to the duo ‘s shriek-heavy first single, “Quicksand” and its equally unpleasant follow-up “In For The Kill,” both of which I found almost as abrasive as their lead’s personality.
With “Bulletproof,” however, that my feelings began to change. As it turned out, Jackson’s delivery isn’t always so unpleasant. In fact, it’s Jackson’s digestible middle register that commands most the album’s more memorable tracks: “Tigerlily” meshes smooth, The Knife-friendly steel drum melodica with a crunch of classic New Wave, “As If By Magic” calms with a bossa-electro swagger, while “Bulletproof,” arguably the greatest of the bunch, revels in its unflinching ode to an era of shoulder pads and big, big hair.
“Colourless Color” is another favorite, a slow burn of vaguely familiar electronica beats and the catchiest of choruses: “Early ’90’s decor / It was a day for / We wanted to play /But we had nothing left to play for.” I’ve no idea what the hell that even means, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t sound good sprinkled on top of some synthesizers. It’s only on the sweetly sung and ever-so-slightly bizarre “Cover My Eyes” that Jackson’s high-pitched coos truly work here; a vulnerability that translates into a believable, tangible hurt. Once “Fascination” comes around, I’ve again lost interest–too turned off by Jackson’s impossibly troublesome delivery to fully engage.
Though the lady doth protest, this record is entirely ’80’s-inspired and imitated. I mean, come on…when I listen to soon-to-be fourth single, “I’m Not Your Toy,” visions of Speak & Spells and Rubik’s Cubes dance ’round merrily in my mind.
Still, it’s very much a solid, hard-hitting effort–one of smarter pop proportions, and one that should not be ignored. I wouldn’t be too surprised to find La Roux cropping up within your favorite blogs’ “Best Of” lists later this year.