I Blame Coco / Eliot Sumner

The Constant

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I Blame Coco come by the post-punk, reggae and ska underpinnings evident on their debut album The Constant honestly. After all, the band’s lead singer Eliot Pauline Sumner, a.k.a. Coco, is Sting’s daughter, something that becomes apparent once her smoky, borderline androgynous are heard. Being an alto pop singer already makes Coco something of a rarity among her higher-pitched contemporaries, but her approach is somewhat different as well; neither a ‘60s soul nor a total synth-pop revivalist, she and her band craft something that could be called tomboy pop. Coco’s vocals are the most striking thing about The Constant, but her lyrics are a close second. She has an appealingly off-kilter way of looking at the world that enlivens her music, often using technological metaphors for matters of the heart, as on the charming “Please Rewind” and the single “Selfmachine,” where she sings “this motor that you call my heart/is just another machine that won’t start.” Musically speaking, I Blame Coco are closer to La Roux and Florence and the Machine than to Sting or the Police -- “Turn Your Back on Love”’s bright synths and guitars are '80s-tinged but not as contrived as some of the band’s contemporaries, and “Caesar,” which features simpatico artist Robyn as a duet partner, is a standout. However, Coco sounds a lot like her father’s girl on “Summer Rain,” a jazzy, piano-driven ballad. Indeed, much of The Constant finds I Blame Coco trying on different sounds, wanting to make artsy music as much as they want to deliver bona fide hits. While both approaches work well at different times during the album -- particularly on “Playwright Fate”’s jubilant choruses and the sultry, ska-inspired “No Smile” -- taken together, they feel a bit scattered. Still, The Constant has enough strong moments to make it a promising debut from a group with plenty of confidence, personality and potential.

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