ALBUM REVIEW: Stooshe - "London With The Lights On"
Stooshe are 3 ladies from South London with talent so evident that the word should be tattooed on their foreheads! Actually, if you know anything about their style I wouldn't put it past them! But Jokes aside, these ladies are the real deal. But can the raw materials they clearly possess be channelled to give us a great Album?
London With The Lights On opens with their latest single "Slip". As with much of the album the main theme here is vocals! And not the sort we've been accustomed to with modern girl groups, here, there is no over singing or pointless tricks. All three girls can really blow and prove that on the top 20 singles. It does however seem strange to open with the faux Motown track. For those of us who have been watching the ladies from the beginning we've seen them morph from foul mouthed, tattooed, almost caricatures in debut "Fuck Me" to polished 60's darlings. Now, don't get me wrong I'm sure their somewhere shouting that they "Started from the bottom, now we here", but I kinda want them back at the bottom. Whilst pretty full on back then- they were far more exciting! Maybe it's a lazy comparison given their Future Cut (their exclusive production team) connections, but the idea of three black Lily Allen's with attitude and vocals to boot really did have me salivating at the thought of what they could offer the UK scene.
Disappointment aside the three openers definitely sound like hits- mostly because they already are. The truly special, Shaznay Lewis (former All Saint) penned "Black Heart" goes someway to prove why the girls went down the Motown route. A huge hit- it manages to blend personality with timeless melody in a way that was undeniably addictive. The Ladies come close to replicating the same nostalgia-soul with the impressive "See Me Like This", but other attempts such as the almost awful "Jimmy" come across as repetitive and uninspired.
Its worth pointing out that the album had already been delayed from its original November 2012 release date. Various new songs have been added to the tracklist that appeared back then, although I'm not sure they warranted breaking the momentum of the hit that was "Black Heart". Saying that, the new cuts did offer us a more vulnerable approach lyrically from the trio, namely in ballad "Fly Again".
Personal favourites on the 14 song set come in the form of the stellar "Turning Me On", a bubbly summer tune that with the addition of a clever UK rap feature would be ready for urban radio. "Round 2", which sees the girls helm all of their Girl Band influence (See Spice Girls, All Saints and Sugababes- when they were good/when Keisha was there still) to come up with a stomping 90's influenced harmony driven jam. As well as the vocal gem that is "Put The kettle On". (Special mention goes out to the chorus on "My Man Music").
So back to the question at hand- have the raw materials they clearly possess been channelled to give us a great Album? Well no. Not great, but definitely good. The album seems a little immature. Not in a kid-friendly way, but more like the girls need a year or two more to really find exactly what works for them and how to use those strengths to the best of their ability. However, I kind of feel like it's not their fault. My modern ears are just not used to hearing an album steered sonically by the same team and as variety nowadays really is the spice of life, this is where the album falls flat. There are too many re-hashed/re-visited themes and sounds on "London With The Lights On" but- all three handle this with personality and vocal assertion. If I were at the label, I'd follow my earlier comment and look to Lily Allen as a sort of blueprint for the next album, albeit a dirtier more urban Lily. Vocally these girls can do pretty much anything and with those sorts of instruments melody is their best friend. Holler at Greg Kurstin (The Fear- Lily Allen, Stronger- Kelly Clarkson) and see if Future Cut can get Lilly in for a few sessions on the pen. It may not come cheap, but with three of the more promising UK performers at your disposable it makes sense to speculate before you inevitably accumulate.