By now pretty much everyone knows the backstory to La Roux’s second album Trouble In Paradise; the five years it’s taken since Elly Jackson’s debut, her anxiety attacks, the false starts, the departure of co-writer and producer Ben Langmaid, the lack of support from BBC Radio 1 and then on its release the relative lack of sales, with the record free-falling in the UK charts.
But put all that aside, when listening to the music, this is an excellent pop record, albeit a pop record that seems out of time and out of touch with the majority of current pop trends. It would have been so easy for La Roux to have developed the 80’s tinny synth sound from the first LP to embrace smoochy R’n’B and had a go at becoming the UK’s version of Banks perhaps, or alternatively to have sidled up alongside the likes of Calvin Harris and produced some formulaic massive high-charting synth-pop bangers that would have guaranteed that the bank manager would have been happy.
Thankfully La Roux chose a different route. Trouble In Paradise is a step to the left, grasping choppy funk, the later years of disco, Grace Jones, Nile Rogers, Amazulu, tropical pop, Tom Tom Club, Love Is The Drug by Roxy Music and Duran Duran. The instruments are far warmer sounding, Elly’s vocal less shrill, the production beefier and easier on the ears. Most importantly though the songwriting is generally excellent (with the exception of distinctly average closing track The Feeling which sounds like a b-side thrown on to make sure the record is a full album). Lyrically there’s plenty to dive into as well, Trouble In Paradise possesses an open vulnerability to it; Silent Partner seemingly addressing Elly’s relationship with Langmaid, whilst Let Me Down Gently, the track that bridges and connects first album La Roux to second finds Elly singing of wanting to be turned “into someone new, that’s what I really need.”
Many pop albums don’t stand the test of time. They consist of a few hit singles and an awful lot of filler. Trouble In Paradise isn’t one of those albums – the good and great outweighs the bad by 89%. It’s a pop record to return to again and again and never tire of.
La Roux - Tropical Chancer