The first two full-lengths by Amsterdam’s Elisabeth Esselink — the “autobiographical fiction” songwriter and sonic portraitist better known as Solex — were pure electro-pop genius. Full of rubber-band beats that skittered hither and thither while Esselink recited hilariously inspired lyrics about kooky characters, the albums were chaotically innovative invitations into the found-sound world of Solex. Few acts have debuts as exceptional as 1998’s Solex Vs. the Hitmeister, and even fewer follow it up with a catchier, funnier and better long-player such as Pick Up.
Maybe high expectations are to blame, then, for the serious disappointment of Low Kick and Hard Bop. Whereas Solex’s previous releases were practically left-field surprises, this time diehard fans have been waiting two years for new material, and they’re demanding nothing less than more of Esselink’s signature pop pastiche. And sure, her third album still goes blip-blip and bop-bop as she cuts and pastes snippets of everything from street noise to “Wheel of Fortune” to the radio, but unfortunately it’s anything but a worthy follow-up to its near-perfect predecessors.
On Low Kick, Esselink hasn’t included a single track as instantly (or even eventually) infectious and memorable as “Athens, OH” or “Solex All Licketysplit.” The 15 tracks, though monotonous and repetitive, aren’t bad so much as frustratingly difficult to distinguish from one another. Only the centerpiece, “Comely Row,” and “Good Comrades Go To Heaven” come close to the invigorating heights of Esselink’s past, but the rest of Low Kick offers little more than half-decent background music — something that Esselink is far, far too talented to be making.
E-mail Jimmy Draper at firstname.lastname@example.org.