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Sex Dreams And Denim Jeans Iain Moffat , June 17th, 2010 07:33

It has been a while since there's been an album so long-awaited that it's come almost to the point of ruination, but that's what we're faced with here. To put matters in some form of context, when Anna-Catherine "Uffie" Hartley was first talked up as a major-breakthrough-in-waiting, Twitter was barely a twinkle in the web's eye, Mr and Mrs Warner Brothers were wondering what on earth they'd done to be lumbered with commercial non-starters like Biffy Clyro and Plan B, and we were a full two Prime Ministers ago. Compounding matters, the collaborators here (Mirwais! Pharrell! One of The Rapture!) tend to be somewhat more associated with bygone eras, and, most damningly of all, the signature reckless decadence that grabbed so much attention in the first place has been replicated on such high-profile tracks as Britney's 'Blur' and, more significantly, Lady Gaga's 'Just Dance' and spat out of the MTV mulcher whole as Ke$ha. If this had come out in 2007 like it was apparently supposed to, it would've been huge. But now?

Well, now 'Pop The Glock' makes for a fresher opening than even the most optimistic assessment would have predicted; less bracingly oblique than 'Milkshake' and less brazenly doggerel than 'Wannabe' it may be, but it's still a firm entry in the mighty canon of pop nonsense-sauce, and it not only sets an impressive qualitative standard but also lays down a relentlessly positivist template that she adheres to in a remarkable range of ways throughout. 'MCs Can Kiss', for example, has the let's-have-the-party-right-here daft joie de vivre of early hip-hop (right down to the gleefully inept saxophony of the conclusion) and showcases a rap style that's part Lovefoxxx come-hither and substantially indebted to Debbie Harry's pioneering performance on 'Rapture'. And, speaking of Rapture, the Mattie Safer duet 'Illusion Of Love' is a whipped-from-the-sleeve highlight too, building through some assiduously restrained big beat foreplay to become a multi-layered club confection that switches from curvaceous wiggle to arch giggle time and again before threatening to turn into 'The Things That Dreams Are Made Of'.

In fact, what delights the most with this record is how its epic failure of damn-giving manifests itself in such genre-jumping style. No, those electroclash and new rave horses aren't going to suddenly bolt at any point, but there's not much that Uffie won't at least have a crack at bending to her needs. Mid-80s mid-Atlantic melancholic air-grabbing? That'll announce the appearance of 'First Love'. Supervixeny millennial braggadocio over perplexingly Billy Joely piano? That would seem to be 'Difficult''s M.O. And swingy brass lifted wholesale from The Best Incidental Music From 70s US Sitcoms In The World... Ever!? Hello, the excellent 'Neuneu'. Better still, the instinctive intelligence she displays in her knack for appropriation is matched by a sharp lyrical self-awareness that rears its head on numerous occasions - 'Our Song' is all too conscious of its protagonist's technical limitations, for instance, while 'Art Of Uff' even goes so far as to address her tardiness.

None of which, we suspect, is going to placate the more novelty-seeking elements of her potential audience, and, in fairness, there are moments when we're inclined to wonder if perhaps a little more attention still couldn't have been paid to this record - covering 'Hong Kong Garden', in particular, is a bad idea badly executed, while there are occasions when the dreaded autotune's leant on a tad too heavily. Nevertheless, the reasons to be cheerful far outweigh such quibbles; the goodwill may be largely absent these days, but, for Uffie, the good times are showing no sign of letting up.

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