Life in Cartoon Motion Label: Casablanca Music
There seems to be something of a retro-pop movement in the UK that has yet to make it to US shores. Acts like the Scissor Sisters and the Feeling, among others, have found great chart success in mining the '70s sounds of Supertramp, Elton John and most notably Queen. Mika is another artist we can add to the growing list.
In the first single and lead off track, the building and quite catchy bounce of “Grace Kelly,” Mika even goes so far as to claim that he “tried a little Freddie.” Hearing a piano feature so prominently in the mix signals that this is something quite different from much of what’s heard on the radio today, though whether this album can emulate its European chart success remains to be seen.
There really is no reason, though, why songs like the trance-like dance groove of “Relax (Take It Easy)” or the equally danceable but more guitar-driven “Love Today” couldn’t find a comfortable niche between the Kelly Clarksons and Fall Out Boys of the world, especially considering both songs have found an almost equal success in Europe.
When the immediate surface is scratched, you’ll be rewarded with quite a variety of sounds. Whether it’s the playground chant chorus of “Lollipop” (a song so infectious that I defy anyone to rid their head of it after the first listen) or the slow strum-along feel of “Billy Brown” (which shares a vibe with Queen's “Seaside Rendezvous”), there’s enough here to bring something new to the table on each listen, yet you’ll also find a definitive signature in which Mika is carving out a unique sound of his own.
On the moody ballad “Any Other World,” Mika comes dangerously close to George Michael territory, which isn’t too much of a stretch considering Michael’s legendary performance at the Freddie Mercury tribute concert; in fact, the more you listen to this disc, the more a similarity between Mika and Michael seems to evolve.
Other highlights abound, from the mid-tempo arena rock of “My Interpretation” to the ominous yet oddly upbeat “Stuck in the Middle.” None of the songs really stand out from any of the others, which makes one want to listen from beginning to end over and over, leaving a very complete and satisfying listening experience
In fact, it’s complete enough that the death knell of the compact disc can and should be put off just a little longer, and that in itself is about as high a compliment as can be paid.