A few months ago it was doubtful if this album would ever see the light of day, but after much delay, Stooshe’s debut is something of a mixed affair. The main issues with the album appear to have risen from ‘label interference’ and they remain apparent on the finished product, as London With The Lights On can at times appear to be two separate albums combined together. The Stooshe who appeared on the BBC Sound of 2012 poll with their ballsy, loud personalities and bizarrely charming tracks such as Betty Woz Gone are something of a far cry from the group who released an ill-fated cover of Waterfalls a year later. What we’re left with is an album that tends to change sound and direction very suddenly at times, echoing the group itself over the past eighteen months. This isn’t an altogether huge disadvantage, whilst tracks such as Love Me were bound to make an early impression on potential listeners, and are perfectly charming and entertaining in their own light, an entire album filled with such tracks would have quickly grown tiresome. As they stand, the very early tracks feel similar to eavesdropping on a conversation between three friends, as is especially easy to note in the ad-libs of a track such as Hoochi Mumma, which depicts a single mother who’s ‘in love with the social’.
Intertwining with the sassy lyricism of these early tracks is the Motown inspired sound of songs such as their best known hit Black Heart. Considering how much of an unexpected and runaway success the track was, it’s easy to see why the label were perhaps keen to have that as their distinct sound, but these tracks are very hit and miss on the album itself. All three members are talented vocalists who can harmonise well, but it matters for nothing when the song quality is often below par. See Me Like This is an album highlight, but Your Own Kind Of Beautiful struggles to move anywhere.
Many of the tracks feel like they only exist to sound exactly like each other, and the album is therefore at its best when trying something a little different. Inbred City for example may have been left languishing near the end of the album with some unfortunate covers, but it’s a clear highlight, as is newest single Slip, which manages to mix the feistiness of Love Me and the sound of Black Heart with surprising ease.
All in all, this album is definitely a mixed affair. Stooshe still feel like a band with a lot of potential, but the confusion of what their sound is remains a glaring issue for the time being. There’s certainly no reason why they couldn’t go on to produce a much slicker second album, the recent chart success of this album proves that there remains public interest in them, and if nothing else, London With The Lights On leaves a feeling that in the wrong hands this album could have turned out much worse.