It’s the 1950s all over again – VV Brown, sensational a good few months ago on Jools Holland, a few EPs later, has dropped her debut disc (a week or so ago). Mixing up the latest in regurgitated synth sounds, a big helping of doo-wop/girl group aesthetic, Hackney bred Brown twists it all into a lovely modern scream (one of which kicks off “Quick Fix”, the opener).
That opener, like every other song (apart from “Back In Time”) clocks in at under 4 minutes, but is totally different to its pair in the opening one-two: “Game Over”, whilst showing off her powerful, esoteric voice, is a lot slicker, a lot more RnB, and suffers for it. Groovy in the extreme, Brown sounds beholden to a sound on this cut, as opposed to making it. “Shark in the Water”, the current single, swings round into a more indie sound, with acoustic guitars, that sort of Corinne Bailey Rae feel (whatever happened to her?) – but with balls.
“LEAVE!”, the song that got me hooked when she played it on Jools, is taken from the eponymous EP, and really kicks it up a gear – big bass, yelpy vocals, and pianos and coos building up to this emotional crescendo. Killer video too – this could be a huge song if re-released, as break-up songs never fail to touch millions. “Bottles” is a clever riff on the nursery rhyme 10 Green Bottles, with a sound that’s almost classic Bond theme (I kid you not), but it’s a lull before the other EP port-across, “Crying Blood”. An absolutely mentalist tune, big beat, and more 50s style guitars and chug behind that spectacularly expressive, elastic voice – if this isn’t a mainstay of indie discos for the next 5 years, I’ll eat a hat.
“Back in Time”, the longest song here, slows things down into soul territory, but does it so well that the urban crowd wouldn’t know that essentially, they’re listening to indie music. “I Love You” strips it all back to voice and piano, for an Alicia Keys themed ballad, if grittier in delivery. Slipping into a slinky beat by the end, this is mercifully the end of a slow section, as Brown most certainly does upbeat better. “L.O.V.E” details the whirlwind within a girl’s brain when in love, and it’s all back to the Happy Days set for a shuffle aimed directly at the genetic heritage of Henry Winkler and co.
“Everybody” is a lot more modern – everything here is processed to within an inch of its life, although the organs occasionally sound like a real person played them, once, maybe. I can understand not trying to be completely retro, but instead of the slightly careering aesthetic that bounces around on this disc, a bit more consistency would be nice. “Crazy Amazing” is what could take Brown further on up – mixing the modern and retro, with the girl group vocals, but a more modern RnB twist to the arrangement, this groovy little tune slips along with a great, catchy chorus, and at 3:06, it’s perfect for radio.
The title track, which rounds out the disc, is actually quite disappointing – like “Crazy Amazing” it tries to cover all her bases, but in this instance, it sounds like a weird soul-indie Coldplay, which, whilst having a decent beat, ends on a low note. Still, for a first disc, it’s a great start – lots of promise, and hopefully, the hype machine won’t chew her up, spit her out. There’s talent here, and mostly, it’s showcased in the right ways.
Key Tracks: LEAVE!/Crying Blood/Crazy Amazing