In an era when The White Stripes can conquer the world with a record that cost 50p to cobble together, Britney Spears storms across the Atlantic with a sonic typhoon that sounds like it might have made substantial use of a James Cameron-sized budget.
After the charming plinky-plonky pop of her first two LPs, Britney has made great strides in shedding her cheerleading image. 'I'm a Slave 4 U', with its nympho-Princisms, laid to rest a hormone-raging tease and replaced her with a man-eating sophisticate. And while her lurches in style have rarely attained Madonna or even Kylie class, it's all been pretty entertaining.
'Toxic', the second offering from her fourth LP, sees Brit' stray even further from chart cheese. But, as with the Maddy tonguing and the Vegas wedding that wasn't, you get the feeling that she's trying just that bit too hard.
The blunt, spasmodic acoustic strums entwined with swirling, stabbing strings recall some Middle Eastern malarkey - some Jordanian jive. The relentless beat, the fuzz bass, the surf guitar, the vocoder - sewn together by hip producer Bloodshy - all converge into some short, sharp sensual overload. It's all too much too soon and then it's over before it ever begins. It's like being shagged before you get your trousers off. Still, fair play, it _is_ an admirably visceral experience and far preferable to the savage atrocities that Christina Aguilera regularly inflicts upon humanity.
Naturally the lyrics are so much guff but then our Brit' was never gonna be the next Noel Coward. And it's no bad thing that her vocals often sound like Bob Dylan with his nuts in a vice.
What her target audience will make of it is anyone's guess, but this hand-grenade of studio shenanigans certainly gets points for effort.
7Anthony Smith's Score