What does it sound like?:
When La Roux emerged to mainstream success in 2009 they were an unlikely prospect. Sure, they tapped into an ’80s-centric zeitgest, but singer Elly Jackson had a kind of arch, nasal tone, whining from the top end of an unnatural register, and Ben Langmaid’s synth-heavy productions favoured genuinely tinny, crunchy sounds that were at odds with modern bass-heavy pop.
I loved them, however, and for me the formula worked beautifully. Until I heard that debut album I’d never have thought the world needed a Yazoo for the 21st century. What elevated them was solid pop nous, nothing more – the kind of fluffy, infectious tunes we remember from early Depeche Mode and OMD.
I didn’t have high hopes for this second album. Five long years in the making, in which time we had such disasters as Ben falling out with Elly and leaving for good (yes, La Roux is now a solo act) and Elly losing her voice (she got it back, but she now sings in a lower key – the distinctive whine, sadly, is gone).
But Trouble In Paradise is, against all odds, wonderful. Oozing confidence from the start with Uptight Downtown (the lovechild of Let’s Dance and Upside Down), the LP is just earworm after earworm. The production style has also matured: it’s now Wham ’84 rather than Gary Numan ’81.
Lyrically, Elly still has a tendency to sound like teenage poetry (Sexotheque is particularly cringy, a clichéd tale about a woman who wants to ‘settle down’ and a man who wants to ‘fool around’), but I rather like the energy in her naivety.
Since it came out in 2014, this LP seems to have become little more than a minor footnote on the pop landscape. In my world, it deserves to be raised shoulder high. I love great pop music but I haven’t heard much this side of the millenium – Trouble In Paradise is a glorious, rare exception.
What does it all *mean*?
It means that retro-tinged music doesn’t have to be listened to with a sense of irony. Just enjoy the tunes.
Goes well with…
The current TOTP repeats on the Beeb, which have currently hit an ’82 high watermark I never knew existed. La Roux would fit right in with Pigbag and Haircut 100.
Might suit people who like…
Here I’m not so sure. My favourite era is the ’60s and early ’70s and I like Beatles, Dylan, Hendrix, Stones…. So La Roux sticks out like a sore thumb in such company. Perhaps it’s an age thing: I’m in my early forties so La Roux might be stirring something from my childhood, when pop music seemed to have the depth of the universe.