Eleven years ago, Fischerspooner stunned the club world with “Emerge”. Electroclash was born! And then a few months later, it was forgotten. Leila‘s fourth album attempts to bring it back for yet another generation, and in some aspects, it succeeds. The album lies right on the border of vocal and instrumental – six of one, thanks to Mt. Sims, and seven of the other. At times, it’s as accessible as one might imagine, coming from a popular NME artist; at others, it shoots off Björkian sparks. The two sides never really coalesce, but U&I remains compelling nonetheless: a collection of odd foods that seldom share a plate.
The entry point for most will be the brief and well-publicized first single, “(Disappointed Cloud) Anyway”, which features falsetto vocals and a familiar three-note trance arpeggio. All … I … tried … all my efforts they were in vain. Those who attempt to resist this instinctive floor filler will soon find themselves mobbed. The stutters and echoes are typical for the genre, but the crisp, filtered mastering is immaculate, and the bass bursts from the speakers, even at home. Of the remaining vocal tracks, the next two obvious contenders are “Welcome to Your Life”, which contains the same rapid pacing and semi-hesitant delivery; and the odd “Colony Collapse Disorder”, which references plagues of bees and is built upon a bed of industrial noise. While the former track would be a safe choice, the latter would be a brave choice that might pay unexpected dividends. Its primary appeal is that it is not that easy to dance to; instead, it possesses the greasy sheen of an underground goth-grunge club. That’s a compliment. No, don’t even think about a remix.
Playing the instrumental tracks back-to-back produces a similarly strange effect. If Leila is considered a mainstream darling, then the one-minute opener “Of One” will likely be dismissed by the masses; it’s just too abstract to have crossover appeal. The slightly longer “Interlace”, basically a blast of rhythmic feedback, may send some scurrying for the exits. But these sort of tracks make the album worthwhile. Whether they are self-indulgent or brilliant will be in the ear of the beholder. Those who want to pogo like young Front 242 fans will still have “Activate I” (200 bpm!), while those seeking a more manageable pace will enjoy the Intermix-styled rhythms of “Boudica” (136 bpm).
U&I is not really an album to enjoy over and over, all the way through; it’s an album from which to pluck and enjoy, like a buffet. The public response is impossible to predict and will be interesting to gauge. Will U&I inspire an electroclash revival? And would that be so bad? (Richard Allen)
Album preview from Experimedia