Tracks feel like pastiches, and the whole album’s about as edgy as a beach ball.
Chris Power 2009
French and Welsh wife and husband pairing Nathalie and Huw Williams might be Risqué, but are they risqué? If you have no idea that electroclash ever happened, and more pertinently don’t know who Miss Kittin and the Hacker are, then there’s a slim possibility you might think so. Even then it’s not likely, though, given that Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down is about as edgy as a beach ball.
Nathalie Williams has clearly studied Kittin’s syntax and delivery down to its kinkiest diphthong. The title track and Hotline in particular feel like pastiches, albeit with a much poppier musical backing than the 2001-vintage Hacker would have provided. At times Risqué capture the emotionally detached crisp snap of electro’s European strain ably enough, but too often they rely on generic hard-rock guitar riffs – and in particular scraping the strings as a lead-in to the chorus – in an attempt to freight the music with a bite it never convincingly attains.
It wouldn’t be so bad if Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down’s worst sin was to be uncomfortably situated between pop and a failed move towards something more threatening and dangerous. Unfortunately, greater transgressions come to pass in malformed covers of Talking Heads’ Psycho Killer and Venus in Furs by The Velvet Underground. The former tries to sound angular and dirty but comes off more like an early hours brawl over a karaoke microphone, while the latter turns rock’s greatest S&M song into a nu-rave nursery rhyme that’s every bit as terrible as that might lead you to believe. It’s even got kitsch whip sound effects.
It’s possible that Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down could be an extended exercise in kitsch. Certainly Plastic Lover, with its chorus of “I love my doll”, appears to have its tongue buried deep in its (or possibly someone else’s) latex cheek, but the rest of the album appears to be only too sincere. With the practical joke theory discounted there really aren’t many positives to take away from this listening experience. Albeit predictable, Superstitious and Déshabille-Toi are passable electro-pop numbers, but for the most part this is strictly one for the masochists.