Sometimes when pressing play on a record you can feel some trepidation that what it contains is going to be dull, generic and a waste of time. Something that raises the blood pressure, tests the endurance and just upsets you. While that makes for some enjoyable review writing as you flex your written abuse muscles, it isn’t exactly rewarding in itself.
I’m not sure why I had a flicker of that on pressing play on this album. Maybe it’s the artwork looking like an ’80s power ballad CD your parents might have had around the house. I haven’t listened to Jessie Ware since her first record and the big singles from her were great at the time. Intrigue got the better of me on this occasion and… well I’m glad it did.
The chorus of album opener Spotlight is a curtain-raiser imbued with the superpower to make you relax and settle in for what lies ahead. Over course of the track, a lush and exciting musical landscape comes into focus that you can explore and get lost in. Reassurance expands as the track hints that, if sustained, the next 50 minutes could be one of the best listens you’ve had in a while.
This album is SO. DAMN. LUXURIOUS! It is disco, it is funk, it is dance music in a thoroughly modern sense as if the ’70s and ’80s dance and funk scenes were processed through a 2010’s production lens. It is all at once familiar, classic and comfortable while playing forth like a juggernaut on a wild ride where you don’t know what comes next but you are up for whatever comes your way.
Title track What’s Your Pleasure? is a beckoning mistress of a track but in a seductive rather than sleazy way. One that is taking you for a night out – whether you want to go or not – and getting the first round in for a good time rather than jumping to the chase. You are going to earn your dopamine hits on this journey. Ooh La La follows up in a cheeky bouncy fashion. Keeping the beat going through to the synth-laden funk number Soul Control which sounds like a very early Justin Timberlake track but with a lot more guts.
Save a Kiss sneaks in with fluttering synth loops and as it builds in a way that indicates an EDM banger may be on the way. This is exactly what unfolds – oh so very carefully and steadily – building to a crescendo and drop that is incredibly understated as the track relentlessly, iteratively builds on itself yet more to reach enormous and euphoric highs. This is a track for the clubs and should rank highly on the end-of-year tracklists.
Adore You marks the first potential mis-step on the album but it only feels like one because of the 5-track tour de force that has preceded it. It is not a bad track but it feels a little more jagged and mixed than its bedfellows. In Your Eyes veers closer to my fear for a record made up of dull ballads but with the driving synth rhythms unpinning it, it holds its own. This one-two form a brief break in intensity at the mid-album point without losing track of the vibe.
Funk returns on Step Into My Life with a life that sounds something akin to Kool and the Gang or a ’70s cop show theme disco remix. Read My Lips continues the funk feel in a very staccato fashion reintroducing the seductive teasing from earlier on. Mirage (Don’t Stop) has a flavour of Ace of Base’s Cruel Summer in the verses – not a bad thing – and progresses through multiple distinct sounding parts in a deft piece of arrangement. The Kill starts out as a Giorgio vibe and builds to a state of almost euphoria before it fading to leave the brass and vocals to close.
Final track Remember Where You Are sounds so ’70s disco that if you told me it was a cover or indeed just released in the ’70s I would believe you. The only thing that gives it away is the quality of production. It is so lush throughout this record. With anything less, the enjoyability would be significantly hit but the combination of excellent song-craft, a clear intent to the record to never let the beat drop and exceptional sound treatment makes for a wonderful listen.
A relentless dance record that grips you hard and never burns out or peaks. The album art gives almost the completely adverse impression and I think that’s where my apprehension arose. That’ll teach me to judge a record by its sleeve. Not so great is that I write this on the day I told myself that I need to curb my quarantine vinyl addiction which is slowly bleeding my savings… can I resist? We will see.
Highlights: Save a Kiss, What’s Your Pleasure?, Ooh La La, Mirage (Don’t Stop), Soul Control