get a room

Louise’s third album has been stroked-up as almost a female version of Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On or Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin’s infamous coupling, “Je T’Aime... Moi Non Plus.” Elbow Beach is made up of sticky innuendo rather than genuine seductiveness and is more exhibitionistic than pleasurable.

Elbow Beach is guilty of imparting more detail than needed about Louise Nurding’s recent wedding, even if you’re a fan. By providing such a specific reference point, Louise has unwittingly eliminated the suspension of disbelief or at least the listener’s ability to fill in his or her own details. (The title refers to a well-known resort where Louise and Jamie Redknapp honeymooned.) Wide-eyed declarations of surrender like “First Kiss (The Wedding Song)” and “Take You There” step over the line; bolder still is a striptease, “For Your Eyes Only,” in which Louise compels her partner to “Take it nice and slow/Hold back the flow/I want you to last all night.” “Bedtime” employs a rather unfair tactic of making an irresistible offer in order to settle a quarrel. This sounds rather scandalous, but Louise’s delivery on “Bedtime” is closer to Olivia Newton-John than Jane Birkin (or even Kim Basinger from the Prince remake, “The Scandalous Sex Suite”).

Too much of Elbow Beach is an aural frosting of Louise’s smooth vocals into layers of r&b samples (or recreations) so thick that it’s sometimes difficult to distinguish where the original ingredients are in the mix. What sounds engaging on “Beautiful Inside” and “2 Faced” is tiresome by “The Best Thing,” and the better diversions come too late to matter.

“Egyptian Queen” sounds uncannily like an undiscovered outtake from Eternal’s first LP. Its clean harmonies, sultry rhythm and silly themes of opulence are completely characteristic of early 1990s pop. Lines such as “Because I had a dream/I was an Egyptian Queen/Floating down the Nile/In serious style” could hardly have derived from any period before or since. “That’s What Friends Are For” recalls that era’s inclination toward preachiness, and to some extent “The Best Thing” is guilty of this too — the patronizing attitude toward men is tiresome, even in its small doses.

“2 Faced” is enjoyable for what it is, but only two of Elbow Beach’s twelve tracks take advantage of Louise’s vocals and demonstrate what she’s capable of. The steamy “In Our Room” is the best of Elbow Beach’s many bedroom songs, easily managing to be sophisticated where the others were merely teasing (or in the case of “Take You There,” irritating). “City Boy Fix” has post-1985 Squeeze written all over it, which is somewhat surprising since it was written by the same committee that composed most of Elbow Beach, and produced by Matt Elliss, who was responsible for every track save “For Your Eyes Only.” These satisfying moments, however, are less than copious. Unlike many of her contemporaries, Louise is vocally capable of carrying good r&b/pop songs, but no one in her present circumstance is bringing them to her. The honeymoon’s over, and Elbow Beach is a letdown.

©2001 Rodney E Griffith. All rights reserved.