When confronted by the debut album by a Sex Pistols' daughter, who was also a member of the final incarnation of the Slits, it's easy to get militant about the unfair advantages bestowed on pop offspring. But one listen to Hollie Cook's first album should dispel such thoughts. It's an unabashedly gorgeous record, built for summertime, born under the twin signs of Carroll Thompson and Janet Kaye, and dedicated to the idea that if there's a better record out there than Junior Murvin's "Police And Thieves" then it's Althea and Donna's "Uptown Top Ranking."
Cook calls the record "tropical pop" but really, its jump-off point is the most quality-challenged of reggae subgenres: lovers' rock, regenerated here by youth, wit and the imaginative production of Mike "Prince Fatty" Pelanconi. Cook's voice — breathy, conversational, unaffected — sits inside Prince Fatty's epic sound constructions as if she's the Queen of Planet Dub.
Alongside the daytime pop are equally deft excursions into darkness. "Sugar Water (Look At My Face)" rides a thunderous dubbed-up intro worthy of King Tubby into a tune that begs for big speakers. Fatty doesn't just restrict himself to slavish recreations of the late '70s dub-pop palette, however; "Shadow Kissing" transposes Joe Meek's lowest-of-lo-fi, handbuilt ideals on to a splendid and disorienting piece of motorik reggae. Cook and her producer share the most important musician's trait: a severe allergy to boredom.
Hollie Cook gets bonus points for clocking in at a concise 33 minutes — Prince Fatty clearly applied ruthless liposuction to a record that should please admirers of Lily Allen and Burning Spear alike. Hollie's father Paul Cook must be proud. Her late mentor Ari Up of The Slits, who passed away in October 2010, surely would be.