Two years after leaving the Pipettes due to her disillusionment with their kitsch brand of polka-dotted, early-'60s pastiche pop, Brighton-based singer/songwriter Rose Elinor Dougall travels two decades ahead for her debut solo album, Without Why. Produced by Lee Baker, its 11 tracks are no less nostalgic than her former bandmates' output, but while their debut, Meet the Pipettes, was heavily influenced by the girl group doo wop of the Shirelles and the Ronettes, Without Why has more in common with the student bedsit sounds of the '80s. "Come Away with Me" recalls the gorgeous, jangly dream pop of the Sundays, "Carry On" channels the driving indie rock of the Smiths, and there are nods to the Cocteau Twins on the country-tinged "Find Me Out," Siouxsie and the Banshees on the claustrophobic gothic folk of "Watching," and Felt on the melodic post-punk of "To the Sea." There are still traces of her Pipettes past, such as the flashes of handclaps on the swooning psychedelica of "Another Version of Pop Song," and the Motown-tinged rhythms of the spiky synth pop opener "Start/Stop/Synchro." But although the themes of love and relationships are still Dougall's main concern, her previous wide-eyed youthful innocence has been replaced by a more earnest and mature twenty-something approach, as she offers sweeping pearls of wisdom such as "oh to love someone/really love someone/makes one solitary" and "was this person not the answer/just a question really in disguise?" in her trademark cut-glass and nonchalantly elegant tones. While Without Why suggests Dougall is incapable of producing anything that sounds like it's been recorded this century, it's still a charming and enjoyably quirky record which perfectly encapsulates the '80s alt pop scene.
AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien