I was originally going to call this post "The Poor Man's Kylie" but I think that's a bigger compliment than Little Boots deserves. For even at her lowest ebb, Kylie has never put her name to anything as dull and lifeless as "Hands". In fact, Little Boots' debut is perhaps the most brightly polished turd in recent musical history. At first glance, the package is pretty hard to resist. Little Boots has an amazing image, her cover art exudes cool and the electro beats flow with surgical precision. All that's missing is a decent vocalist, some good songs and a little bit of heart. Don't be fooled by the pretty pictures and dazzling lights - "Hands" is all style and no substance.
Despite my general misgivings about the album, there are a couple of highlights. The Greg Kurstin produced lead single doesn't quite live up to the deafening hype but "New In Town" is still a catchy electro anthem with a punchy little chorus. Unfortunately, it sticks out like a boner on a nudist beach among all the other toothless tracks. "Remedy" is probably the best of the rest. With a bit of a polish it could probably pass for a Saturdays' B-Side. I'm also rather partial to "Hearts Collide", which simultaneously rips off Sophie Ellis Bexter's "Another Day" and Cut Copy's "Hearts On Fire". It's not very original but Richard Stannard knows his way around a chorus and this is one of the few tracks that has a discernible hook. The only other track I've bothered to keep on my Ipod is the embarrassing but fun "Tune Of My Heart". It's by far the worst song Pascal Gabriel has ever put his name to but a little more of this cheese would have at least dragged the album into 'so bad it's good' territory.
As for the rest of "Hands", it's incredibly bland and disappointing. "Mathematics" is typically pointless. It's just a string of meaningless words set to an anonymous beat. There's no emotion or intelligence behind it. The same goes for the achingly pretentious "Ghosts" and the incredibly dreary "No Brakes". Things then go from bad to worse on "Symmetry". The track begins promisingly but ultimately reveals itself to be a rather feeble Depeche Mode knock off, while "Meddle" and "Click" are both songs in search of a chorus and melody. I really wanted to like "Earthquake" because it so desperately tries to imitate Kylie but the lyrics are abstract to the point of being ridiculous. However, as dire as those lyrics are, they have nothing on the hideous title track. I honestly didn't know whether to laugh or cry when Little Boots earnestly mused "she went up to the heavens about quarter past eleven" before singing some rubbish about putting her broken heart back together with sticky tape. Honestly, it makes Lady GaGa's legendary"bluffin' with my muffin" rhyme sound like Shakespeare! These are the empty shells of great pop songs. The production is uniformly excellent the album has no guts and more unforgivably, no soul.
So what the hell went wrong? The album features the who's who of hot producers from Greg Kurstin to RedOne. Ultimately, the blame has to lie with Little Boots. She clearly needs to run not walk to the Cathy Dennis school of songwriting to learn the importance of a decent chorus. A better solution would be leaving songwriting duties in more capable hands because it's clearly not her forte. A bigger obstacle for Little Boots, and one that's much harder to overcome, is her voice. I'm a firm believer that you don't need a huge set of pipes to be a good pop star but Little Boots makes Annie sound like Maria Callas. She basically talks her way through songs in an increasingly grating monotone. I think this is indicative of a bigger issue - her total and utter lack of charisma and personality. Little Boots is a blank sheet. Any of these songs could have appeared on any number of pop albums and probably would have sounded a lot better for it. She's not as fun as Kylie, as edgy as Lady GaGa or as clever as Robyn. What exactly is Little Boots' contribution to pop music?
This week "Hands" plummets from #5 to #40 on the UK albums chart. I guess word of mouth is starting to spread.