SOPHIE ELLIS-BEXTOR, Wanderlust
Album five, or so, and Sophie Ellis Bextor, once a delicate indie waif turned disco pop strumpet goes for Phase Two : inexplicably huge in former Communist states, Sophie has taken a left turn creatively, teaming up with Ed Harcourt, going the self-funded indie route, and creating a record that has a lot more in common with her time in 2nd Division Britpoppers Theaudience than her past decade as a superior, aloof, dance queen, “Wanderlust” explores that very theory musically. From the opening track - “Birth Of An Empire” - the stall is set : this is a new world, made of balilakas, of unusual/Eastern tunings, galloping rhythms, choral backing vocals, the kind of “world” music that would actually terrify peers who see world music as being merely the continent of Africa, here Bextor describes a world of worldly, experienced music, of intricate love songs, her voice – thin and intimate, peculiarly British in ways I cannot fully understand, are built on cinematic, near Bondian songs of no small drama and large ambition. “Until The Stars Collide” may sound trite, but listen to it, experience the song, which is longer than its 3.38s length might suggest, because of the power inside (is “Brighton Rock” really only 93 minutes?), and then followup track “Runaway Dreamer” which is another grand song. Whilst at first, those of us who might have expected another album of intelligent electronic pop music may be disappointed, instead what we have here is an artistic maturity, an evolution, a reflection of another side of the artistic personality which has previously been dormant, and instead sees a strong and bold new step with a record of superior pop music designed not just to be sold in supermarkets but also to be taken to heart and loved by us in all our facets, mothers, fathers, lovers, children, husbands, wives, scientists and social workers, music for all of us. No matter who we are and how we live, each of us are the same underneath, the same hopes and ideals, to be loved, to be happy, to conquer our enemies, crush them and hear the lamentation of their women. (Ok, not everyone is Conan The Barbarian), But all of us the same, yet different, and all of these songs mean something. Artistically this is a new direction, a brave new moment, and a success on that count.