Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Album review: Charli XCX - True Romance

That True Romance is likely to ruffle few feathers on its release speaks volumes about the current shape of modern-day pop music. Once upon a time, such a collection of android beats and glitch-riddled melodies would have singled its creator out as a libido-led sonic provocateur. In 2013 it merely ensures Charli XCX's place in the pack.

Still, there's an element of the unexpected to the artist christened Charlotte Aitchison. So far, the hyper-hyped Brit has amassed an impressive array of superlatives for her highly glossed off-piste pop. And to keep the teenagers and tabloids happy, she's already had to apologize for glamorizing guns in the promotional video for infectious early single "You (Ha Ha Ha)."

 Charli XCX's debut LP attempts to straddle both sides of her dichotomous persona. Cuts like "Nuclear Seasons" and "Black Roses" are laced with irresistible neon-lit hooks, while her bruising vocal during the futuristic "What I Like" follows the M.I.A. blueprint for lyrical brutality. Not that she can't transmit cuter vibes when pushed: "Take My Hand" is as sugarcoated as any cherubic pop saunter of the last decade.

For the most part, it's a breathless ride that gyrates to atomic hip-hop beats and darting synth lines, polished off with XCX's rough-riding narratives. But when her fucking and/or fighting rhetoric wears thin—as it does during the tedious "Lock You Up" and equally stifled "Stay Away"—the maximalist production occasionally rings out like anodyne chart fodder.

Mercifully, such lulls in quality are fleeting. True Romance's core focus is on exploring the kind of innovative sonic caveats that sustain long-term interest. Part of the pack she may be, but Charli XCX proves she's adventurous and unconventional enough to break out on her own.

First published here for Under the Radar

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