She’s Australian, brunette, easy on the eye, and used to be an actress before metamorphosing into a commercial pop artist. No, not Natalie Imbruglia this time, but her compatriot Lenka Kripac shares a very similar backstory.
Formerly keyboard player in cult post-rock band Decoder Ring, Lenka has managed to successfully shed all signs of an experimental past. Her debut album is squarely aimed at the lucrative middle of the market. In fact, there’s a rumour that if you play the vinyl version backwards, you can hear a plea for a Grey’s Anatomy endorsement…
Opening track The Show encapsulates what Lenka is all about – it’s big, bright, shiny pop, with an infectious likeability about it and the cute lyrical concept that ‘if life’s a show, I want my money back’. It may not be the most original idea, but it works just fine if you want a pleasantly diverting couple of minutes.
Everything about Lenka screams ‘pleasant’. Her voice is pleasant, if not particularly strong. The production is pleasant – upbeat, shiny and radio-friendly. And the songs are pleasant – nothing life-altering, innovative or remotely challenging, but just kind of…nice. Imagine Dido on a shedload of happy pills, and you’re halfway there.
And there’s the rub. Lenka’s inherent inoffensiveness eventually becomes offensive. It’s so sickly sweet that, after a time, it’s like being force-fed sugar lumps, or being trapped on that long-distance train journey with the newly married couple who “wuv each other very much”. Bring Me Down, despite its title, is so relentlessly upbeat that it even throws some whistling into the mix.
It’s not all so sugary though – Trouble Is A Friend has a darker edge to it, that while not exactly being sinister, does hint a more murky psyche. The fragile Like A Song, meanwhile, is rather beautiful, a stark piano ballad pining for a lost love.
If the rest of the album had this quality, then Lenka’s debut would have been an unqualified success. Yet the songs here are just not strong enough to stretch over an album. There’s precious little originality either – Knock Knock makes mention of “You seem to know the way to turn my frown upside down” while Anything I’m Not bemoans the fact that “I am so tired of being me, I wanna be free”.
If it’s true that people need fluffy escapism in tough times, then Lenka could well be a big success. However, despite a couple of promising signs, overall this is too bland and stodgy to hold any lasting appeal.