Charli XCX - Sucker
"You said you wanna bang / Well fuck you, sucker!" Okay. Well that's the pocket money portion of the Charli XCX demographic kicked into touch. Shame – what a hoot it would have been to see her deliver that one to the gig-accompanying yummy mummy set, suddenly frozen in their Boden sandals as bad grrrl Charlotte Emma Aitchison sends Isabel and Freya on a rocket ride into GCSE-threatening depravity. As the chorus of the title track on her second album, you hope that it signals a lively spicing of the XCX brew. But it's a ruse, and behind every get-your-attention headline – in print and on record - there's always a 'but'.
There's nothing hugely wrong with Sucker, and a series of frothing reviews from America's most influential outlets have helped Charli XCX gain a foothold in the States, which might well be where she ends up plying most of her trade. But gone are the appealing goth-lite inflections of 2013's True Romance, replaced by de rigueur crash-bang-wallop arrangments. A clatter of rasping beats, stabbing synth and vocals multi-tracked to the ends of the earth; all combine to almost define 2015's (and 2014's, and 2013's, and…) day-glo club pop blueprint.
Once you stumble past the handful of get-your-attention openers, Sucker stops for a fag and breathes a little easier. Along comes the sweet-sour 'Body of My Own', the undeniable 'Boom Clap' and the Rita Ora-featuring 'Doing It': all exemplary sugar pop. But, elsewhere, the soundboard is altogether too busy, too shouty, too tinny. At times it's like Toni Basil fronting Sigue Sigue Sputnik. It runs out of ideas long before the end, where its closing songs suffer from a debilitating uniformity.
In there somewhere is the teen who posted her songs on Myspace and ended up getting signed before she'd left school. Or maybe not. You wonder whether some ever got around to a second listen. Unlikely. Because, while the A&R algorithms never intended the chin-stroking older dude to be more than half a percent of the Charli XCX audience, properly game-changing electro-pop (as cerebral as it is fun) finds a way to every sector of the wider audience. And that's why we're still firing up the likes of 1989 and Night Time, My Time some time after release.
Sucker's concessions to the market, despite its claims of no compromise vision, weaken its credentials. An average half dozen writers per track suggest Charlotte - despite Charli's protestations - still lacks the level of self-belief that would pitch her as a contemporary of Taylor Swift and not, as the evidence here suggests, a mere minion.