La Roux La RouxSidetracked
With the enjoyable “Lazerproof” still fresh in our memory –that is to say, the Mad Decent mixtape where the juicy marriage of convenience between La Roux and Major Lazer was consummated– Renaissance has now invited Elly Jackson and Ben Langmaid to star in the second album of the “Sidetracked” saga. The series, which was inaugurated last year with Hercules And Love Affair, starts out with a simple premise: to select the songs that have in some manner marked the artist, so as to dust off the unconfessed sins of their private discotheque at the same time, to the delight of their fans. So if you want to know what “bangs” was listening to while recording their debut, this is your chance. I have to confess right from the start that writing about a session like this is hard for me for one simple reason: if one of us had to summarise some of the songs of our life in a little over an hour, we wouldn’t let anybody go off on our selection without hesitation under any circumstances. Many people would be scared if they knew what I listen to in my down time—sorry, but you’re going to keep wondering—so nobody is anybody to be criticising the musical fetishes of these 80s pop revitalising forces.
When word of this album release reached our ears, many of us thought that it would stick strictly to the area of synth pop. We were wrong. Jackson and Langmaid open the door to a good number of must-hear one-hit wonders –the 60s soul of “Just One Look” by Doris Troy or “Exotic Nations” by Jam Crew– as well as the new romantics (the case of one of the poster children for mascara with testosterone, David Sylvian, in his Japan phase, recovered here in the form of “I Second that Emotion”), and to the recognisable beat boxes of Italo disco and forgotten 70s legends like Gerry Rafferty ( “Right Down the Line”, presumably the song that Sébastien Tellier wakes up to every morning). These gems of the decade of the shoulder pad that La Roux has chosen –pieces like “Afrikan Man”, by Kongo Band (one might say the best antidote for burying “Waka Waka” once and for all) and “Suffer The Children”, by Tears For Fears , have aged very well; this makes us think that Jackson and company know what they are doing. In the face of the hyped catfight that this hairspray sympathiser got into with Little Boots a few months ago, some of us took the side of this blonde who was predestined – but who has so far failed, unfortunately—to mutate into a minority Kylie. A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then. But simply for having rescued that exercise in good taste that is Freur’s “Doot Doot”, the seed of what would later become Underworld, from my unconscious, from now on I will forgive Ellie Jackson for anything, in spite of her surly character.
Apologies apart, the duo doesn’t just live on the 80s alone. So we also run into the antidepressant remix of D. Lissvik of “When I Grow Up” ( Fever Ray ) or the reinterpretation of Kavinsky’s “Testarossa Autodrive” that SebastiAn pulled out of his sleeve. Even with these, what is a compilation like this without a new song? It’s not really unpublished, really and truly unheard-of before, but it is nice that La Roux included the cover of “Under My Thumb” that they have been performing in their most recent live shows. Choosing one of the Stones’ best songs is always betting on a winning horse, and Jackson takes it to her turf by singing it in a carefree manner, like when she puts on her toupee, skipping the high notes that took points away in the debut. There is also room on this new album in the “Sidetracked” series for the duo’s remixing skills. This is where we find their reinterpretation of “Self Machine” ( I Blame Coco ), the band led by Sting’s trendy daughter (as it should be, I prefer it to the original version). Tracklist aside, the only thing that we can reproach them for is that they have left the most effective songs to the last half an hour, and that none of them are by their adored bands, The Human League or Yazoo. Everyone has their own taste, but I’m sure that in a few days, when I’m off on a long road trip, taking advantage of the holidays, many of these songs will save me from boredom for awhile, keeping the monotony at bay. Sergio del Amo