What is it about second helpings? Le deuxieme visit to Paris somehow never quite manages to capture the exhilaration of that first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower or that first stroll down the Champs Elysees. That second beer never quite quenches like the first one.
And what about that tricky little conundrum known as the second album/novel phenomenon? Shooting stars soon burn themselves out, precocious talent today, spud-peeler tomorrow. How then do you improve on a debut sensation? Perhaps you don’t. Quit while you’re ahead? Only if you are the KLF, only if you’re JD Salinger.
All of which brings us somewhat artfully to La Roux. It had been a very long five years since the synth pop duo of Elly Jackson and Ben Langmire stormed the charts with two of the decade’s zingiest, zestiest tunes ‘In for the Kill’ and ‘Bulletproof.’ Dashes of Bowie, a good measure of Lennox and even a twist or two of Phil Oakey – it all added up to a rather intriguing electropop cocktail.
And Jackson – replete with androgynous Ziggy face paint and hairdo - looked every inch the pop demi-god, straight off a Visage video. Uber cool, Elly. But the higher you fly… Thoughts turned towards the follow-up. Expectations were high, very high. And that first album La Roux had been nothing short of a triumph, brimful of almost perfectly lush pop vignettes that brought to mind the production craft of 80’s Svengali Trevor Horn. Quite an achievement.
Then silence. Five long years of silence. Had it all been a flash in the pan? Were La Roux about to join that elite pantheon of performers condemned to be nothing more than answers to questions asked in the Pig and Whistle every Tuesday evening? Were La Roux to be, whisper it, one hit wonders?
As the years crept by this grisly fate grew more plausible. You could almost see Shaz and Trace scratching their heads over their white wine spritzers as that question came cackling out over the pa. “Name the pop duo who had a number one hit with Bulletproof..?”
All of which brings us in a roundabout way to Trouble in Paradise.
There are nine songs on this album – a song and a half a year, a scant harvest - and though you’d never guess, these nine little devils were reportedly wrenched, nay ripped from the womb. As pregnancies go five years was a helluva long one. By golly it’s been a struggle.
The Bowie-esque ‘Uptight Downtown’ kicks off the album in upbeat fashion and for a moment it’s as if she’s never been away. It’s just the bold, confident start that this album needed. ‘Silent Partner’ – a glorious anthem that manages to even out-depeche the Basildon kings of electro-rock themselves, is typical of this new found energy and assurance.
Indeed there’s more than enough here to suggest that the La Roux story may have a few more chapters to be written yet. Yes Trouble in Paradise is a transitional album – and though there aren’t any instant classics, no ‘Bulletproofs’ - no Eiffel Towers, there’s definitely something going on here.
The sound has subtly shifted so by the time we reach ‘Tropical Chancer’ a lush, desert island of a song the reggae chords and steel drums raise not an eyebrow. Overall it’s a much less synth-centric album than its predecessor, more rounded less tiny.
La Roux then have bravely chosen not to revisit the French capital despite its wow factors, but rather take us down to Marseille instead. Okay so it’s not Paris, but if you like to veer off the beaten track then it’s arguably a far more exciting, edgier place from which to get your kicks.