It's been over five years since "In For The Kill" and "Bulletproof" were ruling the charts, which is a lifetime in pop. In the interim La Roux has split in two, with behind-the-scenes guy Ben Langmaid moving on, forcing Elly Jackson to become a solo front woman, while the rest of pop music is moving on from the 80's influences and taken up residence in the 90s. La Roux, never one to stick to trends, has merely moved on from the 80s to … another part of the 80s.
The list of specific influences this time round is much higher though, as through the new addition of actual instruments, added to their wall of dainty electro, you can hear the likes of Duran Duran, Grace Jones and Nile Rodgers. First single and album opener "Uptight Downight", apparently dealing with the Brixton Riots, sounds like a call to arms… for everyone to hit the nearest beach. With the synths reverberating all over the place and the bass as slinky as can be, this is the sexiest riot song there's probably ever been.
Soon after there's a pile-up of terrible-names/great-songs, starting with "Kiss And Not Tell", a tune you can imagine David Bowie nodding and clicking along to, playfully flirty and instantly catchy. "Cruel Sexuality" finds Jackson simultaneously adoring a hot beefcake while on holiday, while not wanting to buckle to the pressures of labelling her own sexual orientation to the public if she doesn't feel like it, all over a backing track that throws us back to heyday ABBA. Pounding drums sound us into "Sexotheque" before the vaguely Caribbean beat, and it all sounds like pure euphoria until you realise that it's about a lonely woman who knows her man is out spending money on other women.
You'd have to check the production notes to confirm that Pharrell or Nile weren't directly involved with "Tropical Chancer", such is the level of addiction you'll experience to its slinky-hipped bass and Jackson's drawled out bridge and rat-a-tat chorus. All of the upbeat songs have a melancholy to them, the aural equivalent of the last day of summer, and when Trouble In Paradise heads into darker territory, such as the heart-breaking "Let Me Down Gently" or the aggressive middle finger "Silent Partner", the high quality remains.
Even across only nine tracks not every song is a cracker, with the likes of "Paradise Is You" being a little too mawkish, or album closer "The Feeling" sounds like it's just one degree away from being something great but never quite finds itself. Still though, Trouble In Paradise is in with a shout for best pop album of the year, and is the perfect soundtrack to late July.
Review by Rory Cashin | FOUR STARS