Anybody familiar with 32-year old Phillipa Brown’s debut will no doubt be aware of the presence of more than a few ’80s perspectives on it. Ladyhawke was retro writ large and most – if not all – of the album’s charm was contained in the fact that it wasn’t paying homage to a decade or being self-consciously evocative of the decade. Instead it was written and recorded in order to re-create the golden era of synth-pop in mind. One listen to ‘My Delirium’ and you could be forgiven for thinking it was genuinely a 25-year old song and an excellent one song at that.
All of which makes it strange to find that on Anxiety the brittle context is nearly gone. In its place is a more muscular and robust sound that is far heavier on guitar than it is synthesisers. Even the imagery from Ladyhawke has been replaced with an altogether more serious, mature look which blatantly mimics the Beatles’ Revolver sleeve. From all of this it’s fair to assume that Ladyhawke isn’t going to try to emulate the formula so effectively put to use on her debut. Indeed Anxiety is a more brawny effort than its predecessor but unfortunately is nowhere near as good.
‘Girl Like Me’ is an energetic and uptempo first track, which could as easily have come from Garbage, opening the album with encouraging form. However, between that and the midpoint there some very poor melodies over what could be potentially much better musical arrangements. ‘Sunday Drive’ and ‘Vaccine’ in particular are absolute clunkers, for all the world might have had their choruses cut-and-pasted from various Hepburn or Shampoo B-sides. To be honest, the album would need a miracle to salvage anything from here and tracks such as ‘Vanity’ do nothing whatsoever to help its cause. ‘Blue Eyes’ and the title track are decent enough but again fall short on choruses to match the verses. The real star of the show is ‘Cellophane’, destined to be a show-stopper and has all the hallmarks of a live anthem.
Thankfully the album finishes stronger than it starts and it is not without some lovely production touches throughout, but overall it is let down by under-developed lyrics and some shockingly weak melodies. None of the songs hold a candle to ‘Paris Is Burning’ or ‘My Delirium’ so rather than blight the album with unfair comparisons, perhaps it’s more charitable to just acknowledge that we know Pip Brown is capable of much better and leave it at that.