State Of Mind
all it the collective unconscious, but three of pop’s principal femmes all released similar records at the same time. First Britney with the hip hop-ish cyborg bubblegum of In the Zone, then Kylie with the icy electronic foreplay of Body Language and finally Holly, with, what could be generously described as, the electroclash pop of State of Mind. Unfortunately, where the first two are mesmerizing quantum leaps in sound and style, Holly’s State Of Mind is more a cringe worthy stumble into the unknown.
But first, have you heard the one about Holly Vallance and her old manager? Holly and Scott went to court, and the judge ordered Holly to pay Scott $400,000 plus 20% of the earnings of her second album. So Holly paid Scott $400,000. Boom! Boom! Anyway, supporters of Holly hoped that, with the release of State Of Mind, such jokes would be proven as, well, jokes and that the album would propel her, credibly, back into the general consciousness. Unfortunately, listening to State Of Mind’s breathily intangible and frustratingly vacuous electro-Vogueing, it becomes easier to see why those jokes were started in the first place.
Melding chintzy, trashy synths with vocals pushed through fly wire into a tinny shriek, Holly’s album is on the whole misguided mess. The title track opens promisingly with an Atari stomp, but then crashes down when Holly squeals like a hamster caught in a rubber band, heralding possibly the least appealing electro-pop chorus since Pandora’s awesomely bad “A Little Bit”. Unlike Kylie’s understated “Slow” vocal line, Holly squeaks and squawks as if she’s trying to compete with the instrumentation, as though no warble she can muster is ever going to stand up to that last Vocoder squiggle, that momentary synth orgasm. She almost sounds frightened—but only in the way you are suddenly frightened when fervor collides with intense embarrassment—like she’s realised in a fit of pique that she’s created a robosexual stance that she can never deliver. “Curious” sounds like a half-baked INXS or Eurogliders outtake, while the slo-R&B-lite; of “Ricochets” sticks out like a sore thumb amongst the more “daring” tracks.
There are moments of respite, though brief: “Over ‘n’ Out”, like Britney’s “Brave Girl”, updates Madonna’s “Material Girl” template; though comparatively light and fluffy, it’s possibly the most convincing track on State Of Mind, pop-wise. “Everything I Hate” takes a dark (well, dark-ish, this is Holly after all) Human League/New Order synth line and juxtaposes a sweet vocal. “Hypnotic” picks through early dance and electronica with a jackdaw’s impunity and a soaring vocal that’s only allowed to fly in tantalizingly short moments. But Holly remains exasperatingly inconsistent, throwing together tracks with such apparent indeterminacy that even the best tracks feel like they probably only achieved greatness by accident.
Overall, what is most confronting about State Of Mind—for all its thumb-sucking dumb-come-hither album art and sexy lyrics—is how vapid and sexless it is, like a shop mannequin wearing fetish clothing. In her embracing of electronica in the most emotionless and empty-headed way, Holly has forgotten that—as Asimov and Kraftwerk taught us, and as Kylie realised with Body Language—robots can dream, too.
Reviewed by: Clem Bastow
Reviewed on: 2004-05-03