Album Review: Clare Maguire – Light After Dark (Polydor)

Stately ’80s pop? More like ludicrous, wet AOR

It’s all very well being A Voice Of 2011 if you’ve got something to sing about – or if someone’s putting the right words into your mouth. Obviously no-one expected [a]Clare Maguire[/a]’s debut to contain 12 songs eruditely critiquing social plight with Viz-level wit, but considering how much she bangs on about the valour of not taking the easy X Factor route it’s justifiable to have expected more from ‘Light After Dark’.

Obviously, it’s unfair to solely blame Maguire – although she may have co-written these songs, she’s but a cog in a whopping great machine looking to fill a mould rather than break one. Beneath the production and goat-throated warble, there’s scant personality – which, as her biggest champion, [a]Hurts[/a]’ Theo Hutchcraft, has often vouched, she’s apparently got by the bucketload.

Where [a]Hurts[/a] succeed in transporting nostalgic thirtysomethings back to a replica of their ridiculous teenage years, the team behind Maguire have taken the decade’s sonics – stabby almost-house piano, pompous drumbeats, sickly programmed violin – and just plonked a gratingly wannabe-adult voice atop them. In fact, Team Maguire so cravenly attempt to appeal to the sophisticated pop crowd that this less resembles an album, more a classic ’80s pop sweepstake with £1 on impersonating each proto-diva in case one sound hits the mark. FYI: no-one wins.

Opening with a minute of intense heartbeat and Maguire warbling her impressive range is clearly supposed to be the dramatic fanfare that heralds the arrival of A Voice, but unfortunately, it sounds like a witch house remix of the Casualty theme tune. For someone who’s being presented in terms of her strident physical ability, each of the deplorable 11 remaining songs is a tale of defeat. Fist-pumper ‘The Last Dance’ might fancy itself as [a]Eurythmics[/a], but like hell would you catch [a]Annie Lennox[/a] singing, “I will kiss your crown when life takes me down”. ‘I Surrender’ and all its lusty glottal purrs suggest Lulu jacked-up on HRT promising to “give you all the love I can give”, while ‘You’re Electric’ fizzles limply.

At least ‘Ain’t Nobody’ has a touch of foreboding, sensual drama to it, but when you realise you’d rather be listening to the [a]Liberty X[/a] song of the same name, clearly problems are afoot. All things considered, ludicrously morbid closer ‘This Is Not The End’ [err… – Prophecy Ed] acts like the eulogy to her own short-lived career. ‘Light After Dark’’s central failing is having a woman roughly the same age as [a]Katy B[/a] singing songs that’d sound a bit sexless at a WI Christmas party. Perhaps Maguire can do better with the right collaborators. For now, though, she’s no better than one of Cowell’s ventriloquist dummies.

Laura Snapes

2/10

Order a copy of Clare Maguire’s ‘Light After Dark’ from Amazon

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