Full of youthful enthusiasm and scampering idea-cramming.
Sarah Bee 2010-11-11
Let's get it out of the way, then: Coco Sumner is the offspring of Sting, veteran pop star and general cultural irritant who'd probably be second against the wall after Bono in the revolution as led by many music fans. Since this mundane fact of DNA is really not relevant in any grown-up discussion of a young musician's debut album, we shan't mention it again. (Okay, maybe once, obliquely, but only in the most neutral way and because it's unavoidable, okay?)
The lead single Selfmachine makes a great opener to The Constant (a slightly self-conscious title, requesting seriousness, please) with its pretty tinkly piano stabs and bouncy-melancholy chorus. It sets the tone for the album which is full of youthful enthusiasm and scampering idea-cramming, tempered by maturity and ability.
The closest recent reference may be Ellie Goulding, who makes similar nicely-turned misty-eyed synthy-pop with skittery back-beats, yearning vocals chopped and sliced at the edges by aggressive effects. This is by no means a bad thing. The augmenting of straight-faced 80s-grade pop with slightly gawky, dorky intonation is very Ladyhawke. There's also a strong whiff of Goldfrapp's latest rather unloved album – indeed disappointing given their usual sky-high standard, but still replete with the kind of synth-rock homages that give you the warm fuzzies if you're a sentimental old sap. Coco's got these too, and Turn Your Back on Love sounds an awful lot like Rocket, sounding like it has the same Van Halen-inspired root.
Her voice is pleasantly husky and deep, and while it is inescapably... identifiable, genetically speaking, it's a good one. The enunciation grates sometimes and she has that youthful lack of control – she sometimes descends into graceless Florence-y honking. But there is a modesty and charm about her that you can't accuse La Roux's Elly Jackson – a singer whose absolute lack of vocal allure is generally made to feel like the listener's fault – of exhibiting for a moment. Sumner is nothing if not earnest, and if that's sometimes irksome then it beats the unpleasant listening experience grudgingly dished out to you by a bored cynic.
Sumner's voice seems more suited to the loping of reggae than the skittering of electro-pop and its cousins – you'll enjoy her happy pop-dub take on Only Love Can Break Your Heart if po-faced purism doesn't get the better of you – and maybe she'll relax into similar territory next time around. There's nothing radical here, but revolution isn't all it's cracked up to be.