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La Roux Flashes Back To The ’80s

The New Now

Everything old is new again, a wise man once said. To prove that there is some truth to that saying I bring you La Roux, which means "the red-haired one" in French. Under that pseudonym the 21-year-old British artist born Elly Jackson and her collaborator Ben Langmaid make basic synthpop that sounds incredibly like some of the electropop that was produced during the decade in which she was born. For a sample of the '80s flashback that is La Roux, check out the video of the British chart-topping single "Bulletproof."

Interestingly enough, Jackson's passion for music sprung from her exploration of her parents' record collection, which included selections by such '70s folk and pop legends as Nick Drake and Carole King. In fact, the first songs she wrote as a teen were influenced by Joni Mitchell. That all changed in her mid-teens when she had an epiphany at a rave after taking in the sounds of artists like Cut Copy and the Knife. Now, Jackson openly admits she's looking back to the '80s for her musical inspiration. "We're trying to make pop music like it used to be in the '80s," she told the BBC. "It was so epic in the '80s and no-one makes epic otherworldly pop music any more. There's an endless amount of stuff to find in the '80s. I can't seem to move on to modern music because there's so much stuff from the '80s that I'm still discovering."

It's not only La Roux's sound that's borrowed from the '80s, but her look as well. Tim Jonze may have put it best when he wrote in the Guardian that "the synth-vixen from Brixton [was] done up like a new rave Tilda Swinton fresh from mugging Flock Of Seagulls for their fringes" when he sat down for an interview with the artist. Check out that hair in the video clip for "Quicksand," a cut from La Roux's forthcoming self-titled debut album.

Jackson's collaboration with Langmaid also brings to mind '80 duos the Eurythmics and Yazoo (Yaz in America), which were fronted by striking sirens Annie Lennox and Alison Moyet, respectively, but with a male--Dave Stewart and Vince Clarke--largely crafting the sound from the shadows. Langmaid is even more low-profile than Stewart and Clarke. "He doesn't want to be a pop star," Jackson has said. Yet, it was Landmaid--a fan of such acts as Japan, Blancmange and Simple Minds--who was the driving force behind Jackson's move from acoustic guitars to all synths, all the time. "I think guitar music has had its day, for now anyway, unless it gets reinvented in some way," Jackson told the BBC. "I think it's definitely time for some serious synth action."

I'm not quite ready to write off guitar music yet, but I do think La Roux retro electopop is a pleasant diversion. You can check La Roux out in the flesh on a series of U.S. club dates, beginning July 22 at Café Du Nord in San Francisco, and festival appearances, including stops at All Points West in New York on Aug. 2 and Lollapalooza on Aug 7 in Chicago. Look for the act's self-titled debut when it streets on Sept. 29. In the meantime, check out the video for another one of La Roux's U.K. smash hits, "In For The Kill."

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