Five years after kickstarting the whole nu-synth movement with their icy take on early 80s electro-pop, La Roux finally return, albeit with one member down, for their long-awaited second album, Trouble In Paradise.
As its title suggests, the follow-up to 2009’s eponymous debut hasn’t exactly been an easy ride. Lead vocalist Elly Jackson’s anxiety attacks regularly interrupted its recording while producer Ben Langmaid’s acrimonious departure, essentially reducing La Roux to a one-woman-show, had many believing that the record would never even see the light of day, let alone restore them to their former chart-topping glories.
It’s a pleasant surprise, therefore, to hear that despite all the behind-the-scenes chaos, Trouble In Paradise is in fact a far more harmonious, warmer and sexier affair than its predecessor. Gone are the shrill high-pitched vocals which occasionally approached frequencies that only dogs can hear, and the often cold and clinical attempts to recreate the sounds of the second British Invasion; and in their place is a more relaxed, if still resolutely retro, brand of new wave/disco-pop which impressively sounds both fresh and instantly familiar.
Inspired by the London riots of 2011, opening lead single “Uptight Downtown” might just be the slinkiest ever commentary on the state of today’s youth, thanks to its taut funk grooves and a lavish guitar hook which recalls Nile Rodgers work with David Bowie and Duran Duran. “Cruel Sexuality” also tackles a weighty issue – namely society’s obsession with defining sexuality – but once again aims squarely for the dancefloor on a euphoric blend of washed-out synths and chugging basslines. “Kiss And Not Tell” is pure classic NYC disco which evokes Blondie at their globe-conquering late 70s peak.
Langmaid may be long gone, but he’s still very much an integral part of the record, having contributed to six of its nine tracks before his exit, including possibly La Roux’s finest hour, the clattering percussion and dreamy sax solos of “Let Me Down Gently.” His ears will also perhaps be burning after listening to “Silent Partner,” a Giorgio Moroder-esque seven-minute epic which indicates that a reunion is unlikely to be on the cards anytime soon.
But Trouble In Paradise undoubtedly belongs to La Roux’s flame-haired frontwoman. The process may have been torturous, but Jackson appears to have used every minute wisely.