Shoot From the Hip
Shoot from the Hip, the follow-up to Sophie Ellis-Bextor's first solo offering Read My Lips, takes the formula that made the latter so popular and twists it into something altogether different. Here, there's the same distinctive (and occasionally grating) vocal and strong melodies now bent and deformed through a time tunnel to the 1980s. Beat-heavy, quasi-electronica pop anthems rub padded shoulders with more traditional Bextor fare (the superb "Mixed Up World"), alongside more experimental cuts where tunes seem to have evaporated when mixed, such as "You Get Yours". For most of the time, though, she just sounds like the Pet Shop Boys.
For all their fancy retro clothes, these are mainly love songs--most of them almost decent and all of them referring to a ubiquitous second person ("Nowhere Without You", "I Won't Change You", "The Walls Keep Saying Your Name"). No rocket science here then. "I Am Not Good at Not Getting What I Want" is strong, largely due to its pleasantly surprising surf guitar (probably not heard on a mainstream album since the Pulp Fiction soundtrack), combining strings and synths in equal parts. Weird mixture? That's Shoot from the Hip. --Cortman Virtue
It was a great day for pop when Spiller's "If This Ain't Love" featuring Sophie Ellis Bextor beat Posh Spice to no 1. Ms. Beckham even signed records in Oldham's Woolworths in order to reach the top spot. She failed and Sophie was assured of an effortlessly cool and sexy image.
Since then Sophie released a debut album, Read My Lips,packed full of hits. "Murder On The Dancefloor" and "Get Over You" will be stuck in brains all over the world forever.
But how has she fared in her follow-up, Shoot From The Hip? Opening track "Making Music" maybe a disco charger but, as the words inform us, this is "Making music by numbers".
Things improve with the hit single "Mixed Up World". It's a combination of the best 80s PWL creations, with a superb little humming riff. And Sophie's pop-philosophy is inspiring - "Remember you're a real tough girl" - that's what we need to know. Just sway along to the chorus with your arms in the air.
"Hello, Hello" although slightly Andrew Lloyd Webber, is beautiful. The sustained arrangement and sad lyrics mean that for once Sophie's voice is allowed to become less "Ace Of Bass", and more expressive. It makes you wonder what she could do if she tried.
But too many of the tracks here are predictable. "Party In My Head", with its cringe worthy rhyming does not inspire me to get a ticket to this exclusive venue. While "Won't Change You" is reminiscent to Pink's "Don't Let Me Get Me" but isn't as good. The two duets on this album, both with Andy Boyd, are peculiar in they are so 80s retro, but they are also rather naff. He doesn't sound like the hunk of love that you'd like to imagine Sophie might have chosen for herself.
There's a hidden track, "Let's Get Physical", which is updated to include a date in an internet café in the lyrics. WHY is this hidden? The song encapsulates Sophie; knowingly dead-pan with a little wink tipped at the listener, it's a perfect piece of ironic, kitsch chic.
Sophie needs to think long and hard about where she's going next. The songs from Shoot From The Hip, with their chewing gum melodies, don't cause too much offence. But the mileage she's got from being cool, glamorous and one dimensional is running out. I hope she's got more than this one trick pony up her sequinned sleeve. --Lucy Davies
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