La Roux – ‘Supervision’ review: tropical ’80s-style pop inspired by George Michael gets a little samey

This pacy, eight-track record was a lot less troubled than its predecessor and conveys a compelling worldview

La Roux’s previous record ‘Trouble In Paradise’ was fittingly named – it was a five-year-long creative nightmare. Half-way through recording, former collaborator Ben Langmaid departed in less-than-amicable circumstances and, according to Jackson, they haven’t spoken since. “You learn that if there is a man in the room, then he gets all the credit,” she told The Fader. In the wake of her self-titled debut album’s success, Jackson was also suffering from debilitating anxiety, which eventually prevented her from singing at all. “I thought I had throat cancer,” she told Evening Standard.

Relations were also frosty with La Roux’s then-label Polydor throughout – and the major label dropped her the following year. When they parted ways, Jackson was relieved.

Though it was a total train-wreck behind the scenes, ‘Trouble in Paradise’ was also one of 2014’s finest – and most underrated – records; the laboriousness of its creation isn’t visible on the record itself. Unlike the glassy precision of ‘La Roux’ with its mangled android pop, and clinically efficient smash hits, the follow-up seemed to breath with a humid warmth. And that playful streak continues with La Roux’s new record as a solo artist, ‘Supervision’.

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Written and recorded over the course of four months, it’s a pacy collection of eight tracks, all taking liberal cues from ‘80s funk and disco. The punchy ‘Everything I Live For’’s is heavily indebted to George Michael –  bringing to mind ‘Faith’ and ‘Freedom! ’90’ in more or less equal measures. In fact, this whole album takes cues from his music. “There’s something in the atmosphere / Telling me things that I don’t wanna hear / Taking me places I don’t wanna be,” sings La Roux in trademark falsetto, taking a look back over her shoulder at the issues that swirled around ‘Trouble in Paradise’. The rear-view mirror soon loses its focus, however, making way for optimism lingering on the horizon. “Now I’m really different,” she beams.

Much of ‘Supervision’ treads similar sonic territory: bright and cartoonish synths, Nile Rodgers-inspired guitar lines and pulsing rhythms. It’s undeniably a treat for the years, but this sheer consistency is occasionally to its detriment. Infectious and fun as it is – who can resist the gutsy, squelchy synths of Wham! and Yazoo, after all – there are few curveballs to be found here.

Then again, La Roux has always held gradual impact above going straight for the jugular. A cohesive record that favours careful restraint and gradual impact over quick hit-making shortcuts, there by creating a bigger sonic world, ‘Supervision’ makes most sense when it’s held up as a singular, cohesive release. Warm, tropical, ‘80s inflected pop can sometimes feel a little homogenous, but once again La Roux has succeeded in carving out her own unique world.

Release date: February 7

Record label: Supercolour

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