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La Roux - Supervision (Album Review)

Friday, 14 February 2020 Written by Jacob Brookman

For La Roux’s third album—and Elly Jackson’s second as fully fledged solo artist—the Londoner has once again leaned into the summery breakbeat grooves she indulged on 2014’s ‘Trouble in Paradise’ with pleasing, if not groundbreaking effect. ‘Supervision’ is in many ways a more cogent album, but it doesn’t have the solid gold songs.

Automatic Driver is indicative of this. A swung beat is accompanied by soft disco arrangement, funk strumming and La Roux’s nasal, angsty drawl. It’s a fun song that hits many marks: memorable lyrics, deceptively complex chords, a singalong refrain etc. The problem is that it is essentially an inferior version of Sexotheque, from the previous record. In this regard, it’s songwriting by-the-numbers.

This is an artist who is working to define their sound, so such focus seems fair enough, and yet with six years between records it’s reasonable to expect more. The previous album (preceded by a five year gap) presented the listener with truly fresh music. This is a slightly faded re-working of the same sound.

That said, it’s still better than 90% of new releases out there, and International Woman of Leisure is a fine retro romp that has a high degree of tonal variation.

It also continues a theme of roleplaying that has emerged in the lyrics. While the characters Jackson creates for herself perhaps lack the direct stagecraft of David Bowie, she is nonetheless building on different ideas and personalities in a manner that demonstrates real imagination.

The standout is probably the final song, Gullible Fool. It is doubly effective as La Roux has previously struggled to close out albums, front-loading the records with all the strongest tracks and, seemingly, not trusting the listener to make it to the end. The song itself is a crooned ballad with magnificent toy piano and conga sounds that wouldn't sound out of place on a 1990s George Michael record. Great fun. 

In the 10 years since La Roux burst onto the scene with a Grammy winning debut album, the emergence of Chris[tine and the Queens] and others has threatened to push her back into the electro pack. While ‘Supervision’ probably keeps La Roux on top, it is certainly not definitive.


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