Amazingly, Little Boots‘s debut album Hands is five years old already this week. A graduate of the Brit School, she seemed to appear on the scene without any warning and was instantly very good indeed.
Hands kicks off with a bump in the shape of New in Town, with what feels like a heavy dose of inspiration from Gary Numan. It’s a great opening track – somehow it’s pop, but it’s also extremely electronic and contemporary. It’s also very loud, which does make you wonder slightly about the mastering, but there’s nothing particularly bitty about the sound.
Earthquake is next, another great little pop song, and the none-too-successful third single, before the I Feel Love-inspired synth line of Stuck on Repeat comes along, introducing what turns out to be a truly brilliant song, and one which surprisingly never came out on its own as a single.
Then comes the lower key Click, which you could easily forget about, except that its synth lines and chorus are actually yet again truly brilliant. Clearly on her first album, Little Boots was really struggling to write anything sub-standard.
On the subject of which, Remedy is far and away my favourite song on the album. I’ve written before about how even just an introduction can grab you out of nowhere, and somehow you know the entire track is going to be brilliant, and Remedy is a perfect example of this. It almost feels as though there are too many words in the chorus, and yet somehow it works on every level, and if you’re able to stop yourself singing along to the “oh-o-o-oh-oh” line then you have no heart.
Six tracks in, and the potentially enormous hits show no obvious signs of stopping. Meddle, with its slightly glitchy backing and beats, is fast, furious, and yet again rather wonderful. Ghost is more of a traditional pop song, but with a fantastic military beat. And Mathematics will cause my library of hyperbole to run completely dry – with its slightly daft and over-egged comparisons of love to maths, it’s another in a run of absolutely perfect pop songs.
To my surprise, it’s actually Symmetry that breaks the run for me – although it’s obviously tremendously exciting to have Phil Oakey turn up, and it’s an entirely competent song, somehow it just feels a little overshadowed by its more catchy predecessors. Somehow Tune Into My Heart is the same, too – there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it, but it’s just not quite as exciting, or edgy, as the first three quarters of the album.
Hearts Collide is – if it were at all necessary, it’s a total return to form. Form, in this case, being catchy pop, with deep, atmospheric electronic backing. If, at any point, you felt it necessary to doubt this album, those doubts should have long been forgotten by this track.
The final pair of tracks – No Brakes and its hidden neighbour Hands are less exciting – perhaps even the weakest tracks on the album. But that isn’t saying a huge amount – this is an exceptionally good album, and there’s really no getting away from that fact.
There really is no doubt that Little Boots made a very strong debut with Hands, and also now has a very good second album to sit alongside it, which we’ll review here in a week or two.