Over a decade on from that titanic chart battle with Victoria Beckham and subsequent multi-platinum debut album, the poshest woman in British pop, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, is still clinging onto a career which, rather unfairly, has been met with a wave of indifference ever since. Perhaps sensing that this is her last-chance saloon moment, Ellis-Bextor has assembled a hugely impressive who's who of dance music for her fourth effort and first release through her own EBGB's label, Make a Scene. Unfortunately, the fact that much of the album has been cobbled together from singles sporadically released over the past two years and recordings originally intended for a never-materialized 2008 greatest-hits set means that, despite its star-studded roll call, it doesn't feel as fresh as it should. Produced by man of the moment Calvin Harris, the slick but forgettable synth pop of "Off & On" sounds like the Roisin Murphy castoff that it is, the REO Speedwagon-sampling "Can't Fight This Feeling" is a formulaic slice of vocal house that doesn't come close to matching the majesty of her "Groovejet" chart-topper, and her usual elegantly detached tones sound just plain bored on the disappointingly anodyne and indistinguishable "Homewrecker," "Dial My Number," and "Under Your Touch." However, there are several encouraging signs suggesting that her shelf life isn't up just yet. Her collaborations with superstar remixers Freemasons on "Heartbreak" and "Bittersweet" are pulsing slices of electro that match the anthemic nature of their various Destiny's Child solo reworkings, the Richard X-produced "Starlight" is an understated and wistful '80s-inspired midtempo synth number that is perhaps the most gorgeous track she's put her name to, and her team-up with Armin van Buuren on the warm and melancholic multi-layered trance of "Not Giving Up on Love" shows her Ibiza soundtrack days aren't as far behind her as first thought. Elsewhere, the disjointed muted beats, video game synths, and breezy sax hooks on the quirky title track and the subtle and heartfelt twinkling balladry of "Cut Straight to the Heart" (co-written by Metronomy's Joseph Mount and Ed Harcourt, respectively), both of which ally with her indie pop past, hint at a new slightly left-field direction that she might be wise to pursue if she's lucky enough to get to album number five. So Make a Scene still provides a couple of gems, but it's hard to shake the feeling that she's now milked the whole dance-pop ice-maiden schtick well and truly dry.
AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien
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