When 2009 started it became clear that in the UK there were three main contenders to the pop crown; Little Boots – a pint-sized disco-pop bedroom queen, Florence and The Machine – the alternative, accepted frontrunner (review of her album Lungs next week) and then, La Roux who very little was known about apart from a heavy ’80s synth sound, singer Elly Jackson’s impressively strong quiff haircut, a single on Kitsune and well.. not much else really. While Little Boots and to a lesser extent Florence have been playing the hype game, La Roux remained quietly enigmatic. Most people still don’t realise that the group is a duo; Ben Langmaid refuses to appear in PR and videos preferring to tinker in the background.
It’s a recipe for musicmaking that has already bore significant fruit with ‘In For The Kill’ placing at number two in the UK Charts (#13 here) for a month solid. Current single and one of the pop singles of the year ‘Bulletproof’ looks set, at time of writing, to go number one so how has La Roux managed to quietly steal the show? The answer is simple – hooks and La Roux’s singles and to a lesser extent the album, has them by the bucketload.
You have to admire their tenacity in literally making an ’80s album twenty years after the fact. Many have spoken of La Roux’s plinky plonky sound as it’s unavoidable. Every track starts with a synthesizer line that sounds like it was taken from a vintage Top of The Pops performance.
‘In For The Kill’ is a decent open salvo – all booming bass and stabbing neon synths and Jackson’s slender-falsetto slinking its way around the beat yet quite rightly, it has been overshadowed by Skream’s dubstep remix of the track which lends the song some real aural substance. It’s a problem that pops up time and again, especially when Jackson’s vocal delivery slips from ice-cool to warbling, much of the instrumentation is just too samey to hold your attention.
The album does throw up the odd curveball. Slow ballad ‘Cover My Eyes’ with backing from the London Community Gospel Choir manages to bolster the emotional factor while the excellent ‘TigerLily’ has bags of attitude and more impressively, a voiceover interlude to rival ‘Thriller’ for stalker spookiness. More variety a la the Skream remix and La Roux could have conquered our hearts as well as the charts.