La Roux, ‘In For The Kill’

La Roux

Now, I bow to no man in my devotion to all things synthy/plonky/tinny, but aren’t La Roux a step too far? Isn’t theirs a slavish fixation on 1981 electrobop, right down to the hairsprayed-within-an-inch quiff? Isn’t it all an unseemly retread? No!

Hmmm. Yes. Maybe. But it doesn’t matter when it’s done with this much panache, with this many hooks, with a singer possessed of just the right amount of pouty glower to slip seamlessly into Ultravox. June Ackland’s daughter Elly Jackson is doing a marvellous job rubbing everyone up the wrong way – well, rubbing interviewers up the wrong way, while the public falls for her in swoony droves – and that’s how we like our pop stars. OK, that’s how we like some of our pop stars. More than a handful of Mark E Smiths is too much of a good thing.

Anyway, let’s take opinions from a cross-section of the kids.  Junior pouts like a common Elly and says she doesn’t like ‘In For The Kill’. Is it the auditory challenge of Jackson’s high-pitched trill? No, she just wants to watch Milkshake. Different response from Junior 2 – let’s call her A-Trak – who bodypops in her highchair with all the glee that Junior’s pouted out.

La Roux, then: big with the kids unless Peppa Pig’s on.

Dog whistle:

[16] Kelis, ‘Milkshake’


So what are you gonna do? Your debut album unleashes a fiery hip-hop-soul Fury on the world, underpinned by peerless Neptune beats and no-filler songwriting, but the follow-up plops onto the tiles like a wet flannel. What are you gonna do? RELEASE THE SEX, that’s what. A dramatic u-turn on the road to the dumper, ‘Milkshake’ is dirty in some vague way, bumping, grinding and worming its way into your aural cavity. That’s “aural”. It’s a primitive record, sparse and jerky in its tribal rhythms, but it was a surefire sign Kelis was back in business – and with third album Tasty glorying in a shot of her slurping a lollipop, the raunchy recovery was complete.

It’s a little bit ripe to play to a callow reviewer, but we’re banking on Junior missing nuance at this age. She wiggled her shoulders like a girl who’s seen one too many must-we-feed-our-kids-this-FILTH? pop videos on MTV and appeared to like the song. So did she? “No.” I’m beginning to spot a pattern.

Better than yours:

[20] Kelis, ‘Young, Fresh n’ New’

And she was too, but already the dread hand of age, staleness and obsolescence (don’t pretend you haven’t felt its clammy touch) was reaching out for her. Kelis was hamstrung from the start – you try following the wondrous space-hop of 1999’s Kaleidoscope without sounding as if you’re flailing at former glories. The Neptunes made their name there, and they’re all over Wanderland (which this single fanfared) too, but even the brassy sci-fi blare of ‘Young Fresh n’ New’ cannot hide the slow fade. This cut is immediate, bold and proud. Even so, it leaves the slightest of traces and scrapes the 20 here, mainly cos respec’ iz due.

In devastating parallel, Junior wigs out arms akimbo to the first few synth blasts before stopping just as suddenly, forgetting all about Kelis’s howl of youthful anguish, and heading back to her remastered Shreddies. They have fruit stuffed in them and she thinks they’re sausage rolls. I’d imagine they leave a more lingering taste than this record, no matter how much fun it is for just that little while, or how much soul Kelis tries to squeeze in.

Of course, she came back hard with ‘Milkshake’. Everyone loves a bit of smut.

Laura Nyro, ‘Wedding Bell Blues’/Kelis, ‘Milkshake’

I thought we could compare ’60s girl and ’00s girl, and I could have palpitations about how Junior was going to turn out. If you know Nyro’s song, it’s likely to be from a cover version. The Fifth Dimension, or something. A somewhat desperate lyric now I think about it, but the yearning for the wedding day is nicely old-fashioned. Kelis, of course, is dispensing with formalities.

‘Wedding Bell Blues’ swings by at skipping pace, and Junior can’t help but sing along. This involves a brief hum every couple of bars but it’s more than, say, Shaun Ryder can manage. For ‘Milkshake’, we’re occupied with dad’s patented Leg Seesaw. This is more of a challenge for the old man now that missy has passed six months and weighs in at over 17 and a half pounds. One should never disclose a lady’s statistics, naturally, but we’re proud of the little baby rice guzzler.

Kelis has never again hit the peaks of her first album, but this song is nagging enough to be impossible to ignore. I hadn’t heard any Laura Nyro records at all until a couple of years back. Always assumed that she was a bit Uncut/Mojo po-faced and dull. Taking the plunge, I found her records brimming with blue-eyed pop soul. Go get some.

Did Bill ever marry the girl in the song? It all sounds dashed uncertain, and I’m not sure he’s a chap you can hang your hat on. Come the 20s, I’m going to be the scourge of Bills everywhere.