All this pop music, it’s doing no favours for my credibility (ha!). So allow me to put up a facade of coolness as I approach the mysterious Goldfrapp. A proto-Florence + The Machine, I was aware of them since their debut album “Felt mountain” drew critical acclaim and a similarly Florence-esque home as a go-to group for unobtrusive soundbeds for TV programmes. Things moved in a more exciting direction with 2003’s “Black Cherry”, including the fabulous “Strict machine”, a 21st century glamrock-inspired electro thumper.
So by 2005 the stage was set for a commercial breakthrough with third album “Supernature” (I love that name). It came prepared with a trio of fantastic singles, but I never gave the album a proper spin. So now I am.
10 Ooh la la – Their biggest hit to date in the UK and still fabulous & fresh. It’s even being used on adverts still, that’s forward-thinking! Taking that pseudo-glam sound from “Black Cherry” and buffing it to a glimmering finish, this has a very simple chorus but it’s devastatingly effecting. That throbbing bassline and relentless beat really are magnetic, and the extra synth flourishes turn this into a thing of beauty. Her offhand vocals fit perfectly on here, and the result is a fantastic pop song that doesn’t make any compromise to get that big hit. It worked too, “Supernature” reached No.2 in the UK, a massive step forward commercially, and sent it well on its way to 1 million worldwide sales.
07 Lovely 2 C U – That shrieky chorus refrain is certainly memorable, perhaps a little annoying. It does follow closely in the footsteps of Ooh La La, but without such a strong undercurrent of beats. It’s still very rhythmic, but a bit sparse for my liking. I think I might lean to the side of annoying with this one. Shame!
10 Ride a white horse – Third single now, and immediately into some sultry almost-spoken verses over another pulsing dance beat. I don’t really believe her when she says she likes dancing at the disco, doesn’t seem her style. Anyway… the choruses are irresistible, with some lush production going on there. finally she gets to exercise her higher register that I remember from her earlier stuff. It’s vocodered to within an inch of its life, but the effect is good. The layers of production are simple but again very effective. Love this!
06 You never know – Not sure about this, her shrill “LA!!” vocals are distinctive and memorable, I think it works pretty well. It’s a laid-back track again, which always feels like a bit of a disappointment after the tempo of the first few singles. It’s decent enough but it’s a bit fillery really. This album is a bit hit and miss so far. That means we are about ready for another hit, doesn’t it?
07 Let it take you – Perhaps not. But at least a total change in direction, the big beats are gone and we have a very minimal bit of production. A lonely piano, some quiet beeps and swizzles here and there. Her voice really suits this sort of arena thankfully, it’s really quite lovely. In saying that, it’s a bit of a twilight zone that doesn’t really go anywhere after the 4 1/2 minutes, aside from a semi-distracting middle-eight. Still a nice example that this album isn’t a one-trick pony.
09 Fly me away – Though if it ain’t broke… back to her ethereal vocals over some reassuringly basic electro rhythms. Very chilled out but still nice and uptempo. I love the layers of beats that keep adding quietly to the mix, ends up being a pretty super little track by the end. Not quite as boombastic as Ooh La La, but does what it does well.
07 Slide in – To be honest this album is pretty coherent, which is a nice code for saying it’s often a bit samey. Actually this reminds me quite a lot of Kylie’s 2003 album “Body Language”, I wonder if they shared a producer or something. Although that’s a much maligned album, it’s not a bad thing in this case, everything in its place.
08 Koko – Oh is that a sitar? Uh oh … but thankfully it’s not that bad, but sort of more of the same. If you want something undemanding to listen to, with a bit of an electro edge, this is perfect, but track by track it doesn’t really hold up to extended scrutiny. I do really love parts of this song, but I can’t help but think I’d like it a lot more if it it hadn’t been as late as track 8.
07 Satin Chic – What’s this, a bizarre cowboy electro hybrid? Sounds a bit like some old saloon bar, lots of clunky piano bits. It’s an interesting sound, and adds something really unusual to the choruses. Still a bit dull melodically, but not a disaster by any means.
10 Number 1 – Oh my god, time for that second single, and this is the way you do a midtempo. Maybe there is a lot of nostalgia tied to this one, but it’s just so effortlessly cool and has a lot of warmth to it, something lacking in many of these tracks. A few simple melodic hooks and I’m totally into this. Those instrumental sections dotted throughout are really gorgeous. When they get it right, they get it right.
08 Time out from the world – Closing things off, and more chillout gold-dust from the established masters. OK so it’s not quite “Lovely head” (that’s a song from their first album, get you mind out of the gutter!), but her voice floats wonderfully. Ok so it’s not the most exciting thing on this album (or on most albums) but has some really sumptuous moments musically. Not going out with a bang, but more drifting off into a nice dream.
So perhaps not my dream album, I had gathered as much from my memories of listening to this when it was released. But all-in-all there are three stone cold classics in this album, and that’s a lot more than a LOT of albums get. The rest fits into a niche, just one that perhaps I’m not that excited about. I can appreciate it on a superficial level, and it’s a nice soundtrack to a particularly boring work day, but I’m struggling to get a lot more out of it than that.
I might look for that Singles collection that just came out, might be just what I need, especially as I’ve enjoyed singles from their earlier albums like “Strict machine”, and later singles like the gorgeous “A+E”.
Keepers for the iPod: Ooh la la, Ride a white horse, Fly me away, Koko, Number 1, Time out from the world