Whatever you might think of Sophie Ellis-Bextor, youcan’t fault her determination. From small beginnings fronting indiewannabes theaudience in the late ’90s, she not only succeeded inre-inventing herself as a glamour-puss dancefloor queen with Groovejet, butmanaged to follow up that success with a series of slick dance-pop hits.
Furthermore, of the current pop crop, Sophie atleast seems to be in control of her own destiny – from outspoken interviewscandidly deriding contemporary acts to befriending indie stalwarts such asBlur‘s Alex James and Bernard Butler who collaborate on her new album.A pop puppet she most certainly isn’t.
Her second solo album, Shoot From the Hip, seesSophie’s take on dance music develop more of an ’80s Europop edge (withthe emphasis very much on pop), particularly evident on the excellent recentsingle Mixed-Up World, which sounds like she invited the Pet Shop Boys roundfor tea and got them to write and produce a song for her (they didn’t, as ithappens – it was actually written with former New Radical and RobbieWilliams collaborator Greg Alexander).
Other stand-out tracks on the album include the�ber-catchy Party In My Head (another Alexander collaboration), whichintroduces delightful harmonies and acoustic guitar to the mix and hassecond single written all over it.
Hello, Hello, the album’s closing track,contrasts a slightly menacing Portishead-style guitar with lushstrings. And if you listen for long enough after that, you may be rewardedwith a hidden track – a cover of Olivia Newton John‘sleggings-and-leotard anthem, Physical.
Unsurprisingly for an album which has many differentco-writers on it, Shoot From the Hip is patchy in places. Alex James’disco bassline on Love It Is Love is all well and good; however, BernardButler’s effort is (as most of his output post-Suede)disappointing.
The lyrics, accentuated by Sophie’s delivery (like afemale Brett Anderson singing a Pet Shop Boys song) areobviously meant to be heard, and as she’s made clear from album’s title,she’s not shy of expressing an opinion. However, they sometimes sound alittle self-conscious and clunky, almost a little too earnestly conveyingher message.
That said, Shoot From The Hip is a good effort anddisplays an ambition – and potential – to produce consistent, high quality,intelligent pop music. It doesn’t quite acheive this on all counts butyou can see the intention and who knows – with a bit more perseverance, shemight just do it.