Sia We Are Born (Monkey Puzzle/Rhythmethod) CD REVIEW

Sia makes ridiculously catchy pop with a dance beat that’s so squeaky clean that no funk can grow on it. It must, I surmise, be for clean Tweens.

She sings well, but I can hardly make the connection between this day-glo concoction and the soulful vocals she contributed to the Zero 7 albums. It’s all so bubblegum that it sticks to the cleft of the mouth.

Producer Greg Kurstin does great things for his own group, The Bird & The Bee, but when he’s selling his services the results are mixed. The album he did for Lily Allen sucked. On the other hand, the new DEVO CD was surprisingly robust. He puts a straitjacket on Sia that makes even the brighter moments sound formulaic.

At its best, Kurstin allows Sia’s natural vocal inflections to shine through. She has a very specific way with her elongation of vowels that makes her vocalese identifiable. Some of the best moments on We Are Born are redolent of early ‘80s American New Wave: in other words, they sound quite a bit like The Cars, and that’s no bad thing. On one track, she hiccups like Cyndi Lauper; on another, she plays the Winehouse card. It’s almost an ‘80s tribute album, what with its synth squiggles, chattering drum machines and even a piece that sounds like the power ballad meeting Joy Division on a bad day.

Most damning is her decision to cover Madonna’s ‘Oh Father’ (from Like A Prayer), a piece of cod dramatics that makes you wonder how she’s reached her fifth album, and is still floundering badly.

Sound: is okay, but nothing to write home about. GARY STEEL

Sound = 2.5

Music = 2.5

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