Previously managed by Pop Idol mastermind Simon Fuller, Amy Studt has found it hard to convince the sceptics that she's more than just another manufactured pop act, despite co-writing all of the 14 tracks on her underrated debut False Smiles. Since her ill-advised cover version of Sheryl Crow's "All I Wanna Do" four years ago, it appeared that she'd fallen the way of the Spice Girls' Svengali's other acts Rachel Stevens, Gareth Gates, and the long-forgotten 21st Century Girls. However, Studt has spent the subsequent years honing her sound, touring with Razorlight under the guise of Jane Wails, and working with the likes of Guy Sigsworth (Madonna), Eg White (Adele) and Peter-John Vetesse (Sia), the result of which is the rather belated follow-up, My Paper Made Men. "Nice Boys," the attitude-laden first single featuring a cheerleader-style chant of "nice boys, they don't last" which owes more than a nod to Avril Lavigne's "Girlfriend," doesn't exactly indicate a significant career reinvention. However, it's something of a red herring, as the other nine tracks reveal a much more mature and experimental sound which has more in common with the poetic, piano-based alt-rock of Tori Amos than the bratty punk-pop of the Canadian Sk8er Girl, particularly on the brooding Cornflake Girl-esque "She Ran" and the versatile vocal acrobatics of "She Walks Beautiful." But despite its obvious influences, Studt still manages to find her own voice. The stunning "Furniture" is an achingly fragile acoustic ballad which hints at the darker side of a relationship, a far cry from the bubblegum lyrics of her debut, "Chasing the Light" is a convincing attempt at grandiose Muse-esque symphonic rock where Studt appears to use the dramatic orchestral finale as a much-needed catharsis, while the Sigsworth-produced title track effortlessly combines the electronic trickery of his previous outfit Frou Frou with Studt's intimate vocal style. The album is less successful when she tries too hard to distance herself from her teen pop beginnings. The bombastic production and wailing vocals on overbearing opener "Sad, Sad World" sound like an outtake from Alanis Morissette's polarizing second album, while "One Last Cigarette" is a jarring fusion of smoky jazz-blues and chaotic Celtic folk-metal, two genres that any artist would have trouble blending together. My Paper Made Men is unlikely to yield any "Misfit"-type Top Ten hits, but it's a bold and daring record which should finally dispel both the Lavigne comparisons and the pop puppet labels for good.
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AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien