Some albums just ooze class from the off. The waft of mastercraftsfolk at work is a heady brew. Meticulously crafted pop music isn’t easy and rare are the acts who can pull off a whole album of belting tunes. Rihanna may offer up several marvellous singles a year (which still allows for the other 11 she releases to be mediocre) but listen to the albums and she’s reduced to frankly embarrassing knob jokes. Nicola Roberts was granted production crews most pop acts could only dream of, but the album was a hit and miss affair. First single ‘Beat Of My Drum’ was tremendous – though treading the very fine line marked ‘piss off out of my head now’ – and the tracks on which she collaborated with this very band stand up well, but consistency was the key, something which she’s struggled with in terms of chart positions also. However, ‘The English Riviera’ is nothing like Rihanna or Nicola Roberts. But then you could probably have guessed that. I could have written that ‘The English Riviera’ is nothing like the sound of a dozen flatulent elephants rehearsing a performance of the Top Gear theme in the storage area of a branch of Argos Extra and left you similarly informed. My point, ah yes, is that the novelty doesn’t wear off and the tunes don’t run out as the album goes along.
While not necessarily sounding great on paper, keening synth sounds, noodly bass and sashaying drum patterns are a recipe for success on this occasion. ‘Some Written’ is over six minutes long but by no means ‘epic’. It is understated, almost unobtrusive, and yet utterly captivating with its languid ache, delicious stylophone and tales of having been left a phone number which was “eight numbers long”. It segues into album closer ‘Love Underlined’, which harks back a little to their rather more electropop ways of old. It’s a curious piece, careering around like its drunk on the satisfaction of a job well done. It didn’t do much for me at first but, given time, it’ll draw you in.
More forthright kicks can be found from the pair of adjacent singles ‘The Look’ and ‘She Wants’, the former all nagging organ refrain and scraped comb, the latter a moody little blighter which initially sours the mood after its predecessor, but soon becomes an enigmatic mid-album favourite. Much like lilting wonk-pop lovely ‘Trouble’, which appears to be blessed with a seductive robot. I’ll leave it at that.
As ‘We Broke Free’ slinks out from behind the swans and seagulls of the brief, introductory, title track, the agenda is set with neatly positioned percussion and a falsetto. Such attention to detail is lavished on all eleven tracks, but ‘Everything Goes My Way’ is one for my end of year compilation, so utterly perfect is its every second. Featuring vocals from Roxanne Clifford of Veronica Falls (sadly surpassing everything on their, nevertheless, still rather good debut which also came out this year) it shimmies along, all dressed up for a summer’s evening, before the musical accompaniment fades and leaves the refrain, “love, I’m in love, again,” repeated over and over. Its wipe clean precision is exactly what makes it so endearing. Frankly, if the rest of the record was crap, I’d still be shouting about ‘The English Riviera’ because of this one, beautiful track. But it’s not. It’s really rather good indeed.