Sophie Ellis-Bextor - Trip the Light Fantastic
Very odd. Sophie Ellis-Bextor, whose breathy alto gave aloof animation to Theaudience back in the late 90s, has managed a hat-trick of solo albums. Odd because, as easy as it was to love the obdurate and artful indie pop her (sadly) short-lived original band concocted and the marvellous fizz of her opening solo(ish) stab (‘Groovejet’), there’s no getting away from the fact that she simply doesn’t spark as a stand-up solo performer. Both her previous albums (2002’s ‘Read My Lips’ and 2003’s ‘Shoot From the Hip’) suffered from not just a dearth of solid gold songs but also a lack of personality and identity. Sophie Ellis-Bextor, it must be said, appears to have chosen Pop Star as her vocation in a badly run Careers lesson in high school.
‘Trip the Light Fantastic’, at the very least, encourages the open-minded to give her another go. First single ‘Catch You’, with its de rigueur mix of electro pop and new wave staccato rocking, was fine. And, despite some genuinely ill-advised diction (she pronounces “daarrnce” like the worst kind of cockney impersonator) the vocals are at least unique. Things certainly get off to a good start – ‘Catch You’ and current single ‘Me and my Imagination’ give way to a couple of corkers. ‘Today the Sun’s On Us’ and ‘New York City Lights’ are both excellent – funky, driving rhythms, cracking choruses. But it’s a false start. From then on, quality control takes a backseat and we hit a run of songs of extraordinary ordinariness. ‘Trip the Light Fantastic’, in defiance of its glittery title, all too soon becomes leaden and flaccid. ‘If I Can’t Dance’ irritates with its dubious pronunciation, ‘The Distance Between Us’ is overwrought clunk. Towards the end I run out of energy, willing this collection to pull itself together. I so wanted to be won over and dazzled but, overall, despite that title, exuding promise and confidence, the whole enterprise falls flat and struggles to engage. One hesitates to offer alternatives so cynically but really, if you buy this and don’t own, say, ‘Fever’, ‘Ray of Light’, ‘Anniemal’, towering examples of intelligent, enterprising dance-pop, you want shooting. Choked by an anonymous, mechanical production job and delivered in an unnervingly joyless manner, this is an album that seems almost unaware that anyone might be listening in. Uninspired, uninvolving. Sophie, darling, leave it to the big girls, eh ?