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Emma Bunton: Life in Mono

by David LimEmma Bunton

It’s the case of Baby turning nanna. Life in Mono is the underwhelming follow up to Bunton’s career defining, Free Me. The obvious difference this time is less motown but more Bacharach.

Vaguely recalling bittersweet Carpenter moments, this record greys like London weather. Leading single, Downtown, gets a musical theatre reworking and is oddly placed near the finale. Not far off is her sultry take of Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps, where she drops the tempo, sinks to a lower register to ooze every bit the restraint sassiness required to outshine Geri’s gayer version.

The title track is the most left-of-centre any solo Spice as ever sounded with Bunton straying into voodoo and icy terrains. It’s hardly Kate Bush but the crystallised vocals and ethereal hook will haunt after several listens. Second single, All I Need To Know, is warm, fuzzy and personal to say the least. Perfect Strangers is the female accompaniment to James Blunt’s You’re Beautiful and the boppy, ode-to-public-transport Take Me To Another Town shows cheek (“I go to Glasgow, I go to Amsterdam, there are too many people getting high because they can”).

It’s easy to spot the downfall of Life in Mono. At its finest, the sublime composition and Emma’s innocuous vocals effortlessly transports us back in time. At its worst, we’re bored to tears. A problem easily solved should Bunton had culled several waif tunes. For god’s sake, Something Tells Me (Something’s Gonna Happen) and He Loves Me Not share the same melody. What’s more curious is the absence of songs Emma spent recording all over Spain, chronicled on her web diary. Only the swooning Por Favor made the cut.

Despite things going awry with the song choice, it’s hard to chastise Bunton for wisely sticking to her twee, ’60s pop niche in a pop climate fixated with spunk rock bands and the Xenomania sound. While her peers are preoccupied with showing more grit and sass, someone should take note as to why Bunton is still the last Spice standing.

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