- Mon, 2011-05-23 17:34
Anita Blay is The CocknBullKid. Or rather she was The CocknBullKid when she first came to public attention with her debut, Metronomy-produced, single On My Own, back in 2008. A singular-sounding slice of electro-pop, it provoked a good deal of excitement and several declarations that the next big name in the electro-pop revival had been unearthed. Now Blay is simply CocknBullKid, having ditched the definite article with the release of her debut album Adulthood. Is the change of name – minor though it admittedly is – indicative of changes on a grander scale? In brief; yes.
There are still echoes of the artist that first emerged three years ago; vestiges of the synth-led sound with which she introduced herself to the world crop up from time to time, but it is a sound that is far from predominant. Hoarder (The House That Heartbreak Built) is the song most reminiscent of Blay’s previous incarnation, its driving chorus of beautifully layered vocals underpinned by bubbling synth arpeggios. A similar synth-line appears in Dumb, where it makes a cameo in a wonderfully mournful nexus of slowly-drawn strings and fragile vocals. But such touches are largely absent from the album, and anyone hoping for eighties-inspired robot-pop needs to re-evaluate.
Rather, Adulthood is characterised by the use of piano, strings, and abundant vocal harmonies. Songs like CocknBullKid and Asthma Attack use these ingredients to craft hook-laden pop songs with plenty to sing along to and an energetic, staccato bounce to them; there’s a hint of Kate Nash’s first record to them, but without the mockney accents and with a more subtle approach to harmony and countermelody. Recent single Hold On To Your Misery and album-track Yellow add a little of Scissor Sisters strut to that formula, boosting the pop appeal even further.
But it’s when CocknBullKid strays into slightly less straightforward territory that she really shines. One Eye Closed’s thundering drums and slinky guitar line create a great tension for Blay to pour her breathy tones over, making the chorus feel all the more anthemic when that tension resolves into smooth melodies and dancing strings. The stand-out track, however is Mexico. Carnival percussion, descending melody lines and subtle funk guitar make for a taut groove that blossoms halfway through into a passage of pizzicato violins and John Barry strings before one final repeat of the chorus.
There’s only one real miss on the album, and that is Distractions. Co-written with Shaznay Lewis of All Saints, it sounds just a little too similar to that band’s single Pure Shores. That in itself isn’t a bad thing, in some circumstances it would even be a good thing, but it simply doesn’t fit with the feel of the album as a whole.
Adulthood sees CocknBullKid trying her hand at a more classic strain of song-writing than that for which she first became known. Though some might be disappointed by the change in direction, there’s plenty of consolation to be found in the handful of well-crafted pop tunes that she’s written, and the one or two gems in their midst hint at a very bright future ahead.