Music: Endlessly by Duffy * *
It may be one of the most hackneyed terms, but there really is some validity in Difficult Second Album Syndrome. Following up an acclaimed album can be incredibly tricky and, ultimately, futile, as so many acts have discovered. Need I mention The Stone Roses' Second Coming, The Clash's Give 'Em Enough Rope or U2's October?
Aimee Ann Duffy's gritty, retro vocals struck quite a chord with the record-buying public in 2008, and she shifted a massive 6.5 million copies of her critically lauded debut, Rockferry. All those comparisons with Dusty Springfield did her no harm at all.
But it quickly becomes obvious that Endlessly is not in the same ballpark. There are flashes of her vocal prowess of course, but the new songs don't accentuate that quality well enough. It's to her credit that she clearly doesn't want to deliver a Rockferry #2, but all too often her singing strays into the sort of throwaway pop territory occupied by The Saturdays of this world. This Welsh singer is way too talented to find herself in that company.
The sophomore slump is characterised by a shortage of songs to match the startling highs of before. There's nothing to equal Mercy or Stepping Stone here.
The venerable Albert Hammond (he's the father of the Strokes guitarist of the same name, younger readers) has been charged with the songwriting, but his muse was found wanting here. And no amount of clever orchestration can disguise the inherent weakness of the songs.
Lead single Well Well Well is a case in point. This insipid, jazz-lite, Lulu-baiting tune failed to break the UK top 40. The trouble is, there aren't many songs better than it here.
Burn it: Lovestruck