Monday 8 June 2009

Little Boots - 'Hands': THE ULTIMATE REVIEW.

So this is it people. The mothership has landed. the Little Boots album has finally leaked into the hands of the common folk after being kept under the best lock and key since the "Who killed JR?" storyline.

But seriously though, if you're anything like me you'll know that to finally hear this album in full is like climaxing after the world's longest foreplay session... (1 year to be exact) but has it all been worth the wait? Worth all that torture of dangling limited edition 7" singles and 'US only' EPs in front of our noses while scouring the Hypemachine for some semblance of an mp3 that WASN'T the five hundredth remix of Meddle or New In Town? In the words of Lil Mama on America's Best Dance Crew, did Ms. Victoria Hesketh 'bring it'?? well, in a lot of ways she has... but is it enough? and so, here is my ultimate, no holds barred, track by track analysis of the entire album from start to finish...


*deep breath* here we go...

Track 1: New In Town (3. 19)

This is the controversial one. Many long time Boots fans were appalled at the decision to release New In Town as the official debut single to launch the Little Boots juggernaut. To be fair i vaguely felt the same way as i always felt a re-release of Meddle or Stuck on Repeat wouldn't go amiss, though i was extremely fond of the leaked demo I'd been listening to since January... this is also the re-jigged version with an additional middle eight , shinier sounding synths and re-recorded, slightly over-treated vocals. However after a few listens this glossy makeover melts into the brain like vanilla ice cream melting over warm apple pie - the production is literally THAT delicious. some may say the production gets a little too busy towards the end and i can definitely hear a bombastic hook in the background of the last 2 choruses that could've done with being brought to the foreground a little but overall this is definitely a confident and sassy opener with a dark edge, if a little un-representative of what she can really do when she puts her mind to it.

Track 2: Earthquake (4. 04)

Earthquake is one of the sampler demos Little Boots posted up onto her Myspace last October which i managed to nab from a blog on hypemachine so this one has been on rotation for a while. .. a huge synth heavy pop song about holding desperately onto a relationship that's going down the toilet and meekly taking all the constant fighting and hurtful words on the chin, hoping if u hold on a little longer it'll somehow get better. thankfully, apart from some polishing, it has been left largely untouched from the original demo and so its emotional resonance and huge, soaring late nineties trance style production has not been compromised in any way... much to my delight.

Track 3: Stuck on Repeat (3. 22)

No. No no no no no no no. NO. this, THIS is my MAJOR contention with the album so far. WHY HAS THE RADIO EDIT BEEN PUT ON THE ALBUM AS THE DEFINITIVE VERSION OF THIS SONG? This is all very, very wrong... and i wont accept any guff about needing to make the album as accessible as possible to the general music buying/Tesco soul public and so adding the extended version of the song would put people off blah blah blah... PLENTY of pop albums have longer versions of singles in the past and nobody's complained. the original sprawling, hypnotic, seven minute version would have been a beautifully epic album closer to round the whole thing off. they have missed out on a brilliant opportunity there and the aural and emotional impact of this normally stellar tune, now tucked away very randomly as track 3, has been completely lost amidst the rest of the album. very disappointing...

Track 4: Click (3. 16)

Click is probably my least favourite Little Boots track I've heard so far... the somewhat predictable lady pop lyrics are unfortunately quite clunky and while the main hook is moderately catchy, the whole song still suffers from being quite un-engaging as a whole - and i NEVER say that about a Little Boots track. She has pretty much been infallible up until this point... it is a perfectly fine song, but really nothing special.

Track 5: Remedy (3. 19)

CHEESE ALERT! Wow. This... THIS is clearly the centrepiece of the whole album. It really is a bit of a TUUUNE! a massive, epic and perfectly judged pop song produced by producer of the moment, RedOne (responsible for the recent Enrique/ Ciara cheese-fest 'Takin Back My Love' as well as Lady GaGa's recent output) who's trademark fizzy, abrasive synths weave in and out without over-powering the song as a whole or grating on the ear as they have on previous work. the chorus is HUGE as well, latching onto the brain and refusing to let go for hours after you've finished listening to it... really first class fromage pop. completely faultless.

Track 6: Meddle (3.16)

This track really needs no introduction. It is the track that, along with Stuck on Repeat, infected the blogosphere for months and introduced Little Boots into the big leagues, although it was never officially released other than a limited edition 7" and on the US only Arecibo EP.
Now here it is in all its original, percussion symphony style glory... and it certainly has not lost any of its initial spark and oddball genius. It is a perfect synergy of the pop sensibilities of producer Greg Kursten (Lily Allen, The Bird and the Bee) and the attention to detail displayed by Ms. Hesketh and her obsession with various blips and bleeps and the synthesizers that produce them. Plus the song has weird monk style choral "aaahs" during the middle eight. MONK STYLE CHORAL "AAAHS" PEOPLE!! Intricate, weird and big... pop song of the decade. no contest.

Track 7: Ghosts (3. 03)

This is the dramatic, moody number - The album's idea of a ballad if you will...Vaudeville style. Evocative lyrics over a commanding military style drum beat which takes the listener on a mysterious death march through "black air under the trees" while Boots' "skull is full of dreams" and other such romantic, vaguely emo imagery. You could say this track has something of a Gothic edge to it... goth with Brechtian/Wiell-esque lolloping synths galore running through it obviously. Not perfectly executed but gorgeous stuff all the same.

Track 8: Mathematics (3. 26)

This was released as part of the Little Boots EP back in January and so yet again has been on rotation for a while. It is an icy Goldfrapp-esque, unflappable slab of electro pop where Boots muses on the mathematics of love and how nothing can “divide a heart plus a heart” and other such pun-tastic matters... it builds from a fairly chilled, too cool for school verse into a dizzily arresting chorus where again the synths envelop the listener into euphoric submission... its SO damn good.

Track 9: Symmetry (feat. Philip Oakey) (4. 30)

Being the ear tease that she is, Boots very cruelly sent a tiny 30 second clip of this song to as a taster for the forthcoming album back in February. So intrigued was I with this snippet, and so enamoured I was with the precious few seconds i heard of it, that I proceeded to play the clip as often as possible in lieu of the full track which could not be found ANYWHERE. Now it arrives... and it is just as delicious as i thought it would be. Featuring Philip Oakey of The Human League, it is basically "Don’t You Want Me Baby" : The Prequel – the honeymoon period just before the relationship went tits up... before the bloke told the bird that he put her where she is now, and that he can put her back down too. The moment where they were equals, in perfect symmetry... the synths are somewhat sparse but all the more haunting for it and Oakey’s commanding vocals compliment Boots’ little girl lost tones beautifully... love it love it LOVE IT.

Track 10: Tune Into My Heart (3. 42)

We’re getting into Kylie territory here... sort of a strange juxtaposition between stock, aiken & waterman kylie and fever era kylie minus the sexy bits... a bit of an odd combination really. its a really sweet song with cute, trinkling synths and delicate vocals that really grows on you after a while but it doesn’t have the immediate chutzpah of the previous tracks. Its probably one of the more purely pop moments on the whole album... not a bad thing by any means but just lacks a little something to give it more of a punch. It is innocently romantic though which only adds to its more understated charms...

Track 11: Hearts Collide (3. 45)

This is another very low key track that also once again takes a trip down kylie territory, though more on the side of moody, x era kylie... It is again quite an understated track but becomes quite lush sounding as the chorus hits and boots’ ethereal vocals swirl in amongst the main synths as she swoons about when “hearts collide” as “stars align” and such like... in my opinion it one of the hidden gems on this album and definitely worth repeat listens.

Track 12: No Brakes (4. 03)

And so we come to the final track on the album... and this track is an oddly underwhelming choice for such an honour. Again it is another winsome love song describing the feelings that overwhelm one when falls in love etc... but while it is sweet and charming on the outside, it lacks any real solid hook that locks it into one's memory, therefore making it somewhat of a weak album closer... all it does is appear and then quietly pootle off into the sunset leaving no real impression behind. hmmm... yet again I whine: where is the extended version of Stuck on Repeat???


...despite some hiccups here and there, my 21st century pop idol Ms. Victoria Hesketh has really outdone herself for the most part and produced the kind of pop album that I've always wanted... it really is a girl's album as she side steps the pitfalls of most aspiring pop tarts by avoiding the cheapening effects of purring about sex and drunken partying, instead choosing to speak to our more innocent, naive emotions through her starry-eyed and quixotic lyricism. This wordplay, coupled with her incomparable knack for spellbinding melody and hook, come together to make the kind of pop music that the modern day charts have been missing for some time now...

Many snobs may bitch and complain about the pure commerciality of the tracks on the album, strongly at odds with the mysterious, anonymous ice queen who first turned our lives upside down with that first listen of the distinctly un-commercial Stuck on Repeat... but anyone who has observed Hesketh's relationship with music like I have will see that she makes no claims to be anything other than a girl who just loves good pop music and that she merely wishes to emulate her own idols in terms of the kind of music she makes herself. She doesn't wish to cut off her nose to spite her face and hold her music hostage from the general public because they're not "cool" enough - she wants to be a proper popstar and makes no bones about that fact... it shines through all of her music. In fact, it is her innate un-pretentiousness that only makes me love her all the more...

She basically just a big legend really. :D


Tim Sinnott said...

Wow you were not impressed with the first half of that album at all were you?

And now for the big question, at least for me. Do you think she is destined for cult superstardom a-la Siouxsie & The Banshees (Genius, snobs fav band but sold fuck all really) or is she gonna explode? I mean you yourself say she isn't all that commercial.

The Great Mortomer said...

Judging by the ad campaign at the minute (she's EVERYWHERE!!!) she's probably gonna explode... Much to my Sally's disliking. :( and my god, that was quite possibly the most in-depth review of anything ever. Almost at crazy, obsessed stalker levels Sally! ;)

ChrisNoise said...

Having just given the album a few thorough listens (Although for some reason I'm missing the track 'symmetry' from my iPod so I can't comment on that) I've found it to be an extremely satisfying listen.

Admittedly I already knew tracks 1,3,5,6 and 8 so the first half of the album was kinda of a hit, unknown, hit, unknown affair. Stand out tracks for me are Remedy and Hearts Collide. All in all a really easy listen. Short enough that you can listen to all of it in one sitting but long enough that you don't feel short changed.

Best new album I've heard in a good while.