We’ve had nu-metal and nu-rave, so it was inevitable that somebody would write the label ‘nu-soul’ and then find an album to stick it to. Sam Sparro’s eponymous debut could well be that album, but it’s equal parts disco funk and colourful, devil-may-care mainstream pop too.
Flagged by unmissable lead single Black And Gold, LA-via-Australia campster Sparro sounds like a man who’s listened to a lot of Prince, punctuated by ’80s electropop and, this being 2008 after all, ’70s disco. His voice, like that of the Purple One, ranges from falsetto to strong baritone and is arranged solo and with multiple harmonies throughout in this slick production.
While the album has nothing approaching Black And Gold’s equal, 21st Century Life heads in a similar chartward direction, while Sick’s synth hooks are as addictive as anything Stock Aitkein And Waterman ever came up with. He drops the tempo for the early stages of the record’s most ballad-like moment, Waiting For Time which, save for a random bridge section plucked from another song entirely, sounds like a Scissor Sisters out-take from the Ta-Dah sessions.
But there’s filler too. Cottonmouth, the video for which involves far too many medallions for most tastes, seems to exist solely to cram “discombobulated” into a rhyming couplet. Sparro wrote and performed this one on his own, but elsewhere he gets assistance from Modus Vivendi rostermate Jesse Rogg, aka Golden, who seems to be the main force behind the album as co-writer, arranger and producer. Paul Epworth and Eg White join the party for a couple of tracks apiece.
Recycle It! sounds like a tongue-in-cheek methodology for Sparro’s music making, but fails to match lyrical prowess to its impressive sound. In fact, the album stops short of being brilliant for, like Kylie‘s recent disappointment X, despite impressive production and occasional hooks worthy of an abattoir, it too often lacks the kind of melodic focus that makes for memorable songs. Cut Me Loose is a case in point – a great disco dance beat and kitchen sink production raise it up, but aside from the main chorus lyric it’s insubstantial.
Being a bit of a looker won’t hurt Sparro, of course, and that’s something that should help him rack up supermarket sales. There’s a confidence obvious throughout that suggests Sparro will build on what is a strutting debut, even if at the moment he’s a big voice with too many small songs to sing.