Like it or not the programmed drum beats, tinny sounding bass-light production and synthy robotica of La Roux has become music for the masses. In For The Kill was a number two hit that won’t go away, and Bulletproof has gone one better, straight in at the top. In the UK, La Roux is the sound of 2009. This is a little odd as the sound of La Roux looks directly backwards to a musical time and place that until recently was associated as naff and cheesy; the early eighties. Ironically, the plastic mine that La Roux dig is the one that in the eighties was seen as futuristic, but is now seen as revivalist. It’s all very confusing.
So let's make some sense of this. La Roux the album follows on from where the debut single Quicksand and two hit singles left off. This is a recording full of stabbing synths and heady hooks. The hits represent well, with a number of other songs packing catchy choruses and plugged in computer riffs to produce some dance floor delirium. I’m Not Your Toy is spunky calypso disco ball pop that if it were a single would also be bound for the charts. Cover My Eyes has the best sampled steel drums emanating from a keyboard since Like To Get To Know You Well by Howard Jones in 1984. Ok, its probably the only song to do it since, but hell it makes a change from those who think adding a few strings to a song is a radical move. Fascination sounds like it should have been a Human League song (except they already have one called Keep Feeling Fascination) with its twitching swabs of electro pop that would make even the saddest android dance. Like some strange splicing of every best eighties synth album in the world ever, La Roux have conjured up the love child of early Eurythmics, Blancmange, Depeche Mode, Yazoo and Visage to create an album that actually makes pop sound cool again. In an amazingly freakish piece of timing they even manage to make a very obvious reference to Michael Jackson and Thriller, with a theatrical vocal in the middle eight of the stuttering processing plant sound of Tiger Lilly. In the style of Vincent Price, Kit Jackson father of lead singer Elly creepily intones “Have you ever felt, like you’re being followed ? Or watched the ones that held your stare? Turned around to see who’s behind you, to find that there’s no one there ?” All it needs now is a zombie dance video.
So this is very much a pop album. A sublimely stylish self produced pop album. If anyone will be playing it in a years time is of course another matter. By then the La Roux sound may have become a little too singular and channelled in its eighties replication. As good as this album is, we wouldn’t want another version, although a remix collection could easily be on the cards, particularly following the 'remix of the year' from Skream on In For The Kill. If La Roux are to be an ongoing force we suspect that they are going to have to broaden their musical scope pretty damn quickly. Hi energy disco ? Maybe. Acoustic folk ? Who knows. Elly Jackson has already referenced Joni Mitchell as an influence and her high pitched ghostly wail could easily lend itself to such a genre. For now however, we’ll enjoy La Roux for what they are. The Cyber synth king and queen of 2009.