"I physically cannot stop listening to that album," one of our friends responded to a Facebook post about LA ROUX, and that just about sums up what's been happening to our iPods for the the past couple of weeks, as the inbox of new CDs keeps growing higher and higher, and we just keep ignoring it and spinning La Roux over and over and over and over. (It's out now in UK, out in September here, and a little harder to download for free right now than you'd think a Mercury Prize-nominated album would be to find.) No sales pitch here -- there's no points off for agreeing or disagreeing with us on this. If you're lucky, once a year or so, and not by choice really, some group of tunes shackles your heart to your headphones and pulls you under. It's the irrational sensation that rock criticism was invented to exploit or maybe even to explain: to add some patina of subjectivity to these fleeting, unpredictable obsessions. I don't quite believe in rock criticism anymore, because it hangs on too many falacies, chief among them the idea -- inherent in the form -- that opinions about what sounds good have any relation to the reasons we give for liking them: who they sound like or whether the lyrics make any sense or who made the damn things or how. Or, moreover, the patently false notion that any person's opinion about a record can be summed up in words, or even if you accept the notion that they can, that anyone's opinion stays still long enough for those words to mean anything even a week later. Sage American indie rock fans used to bemoan the English tabloids, who proclaimed a new best-band-ever every week. But the NME had a piece of it right -- the impermanence, the shifting loyalties, the what-next-ness. In hindsight that part feels righter. End of digression.
And, because critspeak comes naturally after about 15 years, here's some useless reasons to investigate further this La Roux record of which I speak, none of which has anything to do with why I like it. (I have no idea why I like this record so much. Honestly. No clue. I just know that I can't stop listening to it.) La Roux's general drift won't be shocking to anyone who's been listening to Europop for the past five years -- I'd be puzzled if the music press isn't lashing it to the same tropes as Annie and Robyn and Kylie. I can't see any reason denying that it's a practiced throwback to '80s MTV synth music, although it's got enough daring twists that most of the time you won't feel like you're just rehashing your obsession over M83's Saturday = Youth. Their one American late-night TV appearance revealed them to be a group of extras teleported from the set of the carnival scene in The Lost Boys, but fuck if I care. La Roux's Elly Jackson has got a face that makes for a great album cover . . . that makes for a great image at no lower than #3 on P4K's end-of-year singles list. It's the kind of record that can singlehandedly absolve a hipster's every precocious indie indulgence through the sheer force of its irresistability. I'm in no hurry to decode them, thus ruining 'em forever, but yeah, maybe the "Bulletproof" video is a veiled homage to the Robyn/Kleerup "With Every Heartbeat" clip? And you might notice a teeny bit of "When Doves Cry" peeking through briefly in "Quicksand." I'm not gonna go further than fantasizing briefly about what would've happened if Wendy and Lisa had come of age in the post-Adult. electro era. Enough.