Where Our Love Grows, the first Swing Out Sister album in eight years, boasts forgettable lyrics, ethereal melodies, nice singing, and a rhythm section that seems stuck in Robotland. Paul Staveley O'Duffy, the computer whiz who has helped fashion the cotton-candy SOS sound since it began 20 years ago in Manchester, England, is the main culprit: His rhythms are clunky, his digital effects distracting. Thanks go to keyboardist Andy O'Connell, who humanizes this otherwise terminally polite collection.
Vocalist Corinne Drewery has an oddly appealing, oddly unaffecting voice perfectly suited to such bromides as the title track and "From My Window," a song with a singular lack of viewpoint. There's nothing obnoxious about Swing Out Sister, which its record label calls "lounge Motown." It's more evocative of groups like the Carpenters and -- when it approaches the swing it pretends to -- the Friends of Distinction. In addition, you have to wonder how deep SOS' creative wellspring is on an album with no fewer than three instrumentals. "Caipirinha" drinks better than it sounds, and "Certain Shades of Limelight" is as pallid as its name. If SOS hasn't quite run out of style, it seems to have run out of steam.
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