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Supernature

So the last time I talked about Goldfrapp, I talked about Black Cherry. And there was this interesting review of the album I came across that summarized it as “a soundtrack to excruciatingly banal seduction.” That review came from Pitchfork (ha) so take it with a grain of salt.

I admitted that it wasn’t their best (or worst) so what is their best? Personally, I feel like it’s a tie between Tales of Us and this week’s subject, Supernature. (It’s hard to pick one over the other because they’re so different. Apples to oranges, for sure, and I’m not just saying that.) If Black Cherry was an “excruciatingly banal seduction” then its follow up is certainly a more successful one. Supernature is a far superior album to its predecessor (which I still like!). Its sound is more consistent, more accessible, and overall, the production is just superb. The tracks flow from one to the next just perfectly.

We start with the FANTASTIC opener that is “Ooh La La,” the group’s first song to use an electric guitar. Which was definitely the right decision. It gives the song it’s rough, slightly dirty feel. This track is straight to the point. It’s simply seductive, through and through. There’s no question what Alison means when she croons “Switch me on/Turn me up.” Some of my favorite lines include “Teasing your poetry” and “A broken heel like a heart,” which I read somewhere that she wrote when she read about how Marilyn Monroe supposed broke one heel on every pair of shoes she owned so that when she walked, the swaying of her hips would be more pronounced. I would normally find a video like this one underwhelming (I’ve spoken before about my views on the music video as an art form) but I kind of enjoy the blend of disco fashion and glam rock stylings. Plus, Alison just looks so damn good. I do wish they had done more with it though.

“Lovely 2 C U” keeps up the dirty sound with more electric guitar. I love the distorted sound that comes in at about 2 minutes. Sooooo dirty. And I don’t mean dirty in a perverted way (well, maybe a little) but just…gritty. A dirty sound so in stark contrast to Alison’s clear, ringing vocals. Favorite lyrics: “The glittering lights of Hell/I’m missing sin.” Oh my, yes.

And how could I miss a chance to write yet again about “Ride a White Horse”??? GOD, I love this music video. I don’t know how anyone will ever make a better music video. I just go nuts when I think about it. It’s easily my favorite, and I’m including all of Björk’s work. I KNOW. Guh, anyway, what can I say that I haven’t said before? It’s a great track. I get pumped every time that opening beat comes on. Favorite lyrics: “I want blisters/You’re my leader” and “In the whirlpool/We’ll go deeper/In this world that’s/Getting cheaper.” I feel like the music video may be a nod to those last two lines.

So the next track is “You Never Know” and I feel like this was the song that was playing when I was driving my parents somewhere and they said she sounded like a mermaid. She does. She sounds like a siren and this song makes you feel like you won’t care if you drove your car off a cliff to reach her on the other side (the modern day equivalent to sailing your ship into the rocks, I guess). I love how it’s very stop and go in the beginning. It’s got this very steady rhythm that just picks you up and sways you back and forth. So graceful.

The album eases into “Just Let It Take U,” which is a nice respite. It’s like a song you would meditate to. Or post-coital snuggle to. I think both would be the same for a Goldfrapp fan. It’s heavenly and surreal. And yet it fits in with the theme-sound of the rest of the album. A soft electric beat pulses throughout, keeping you anchored to the song, as Alison croons dreamily.

I remember hearing “Fly Me Away” in a Target holiday-themed commercial. Kind of a weird place to use it, but I liked it enough at the time. It does have a wintery sound to it (in spite of the “Miles and miles of sun” line). It’s also very playful, happy, and innocent, even with Alison’s breathy vocals.

“Slide In” is probably the most on-the-nose track. Well, second to “Ooh La La,” considering how forward THAT one was. But read that title again. “Slide In” sounds like something that would have been on Black Cherry. I love the way the song stretches out every time she sings “Sliiiide in.” In general, I just love songs that manage to aurally match the lyrics, and this song does it!

“Koko” is probably my least favorite track on this album. Which isn’t to say I don’t like it. It just doesn’t do much for me. It’s still a well-rounded, well-produced track, so I’ll give it that!

“Satin Chic” was described by Goldfrapp as being their favorite track off of this album. I like it a lot too! The honky-tonk piano fits perfectly with the song. It gives it this cabaret feel. I can’t get enough of it! Something about it reminds me of flappers. I can’t explain it. I guess it has something to do with that piano-cabaret feel. Favorite lyrics: “Lip gloss bold as blood.”

We get another respite before heading into the finale with “Time Out From The World,” a song that sounds just like that. It’s soft and dreamy, like “Just Let It Take U” but not as minimal. It’s got a foggy, yawning sound to it. Very soothing. Maybe not so post-coital though, as it features some sensual sighing toward the end. Favorite lyrics: “We changed the world, just you and I/I make a shrine for you.”

The closing track is “Number 1,” a very pleasant song full of longing with just a touch of sadness. Not boo-hoo-I’m-going-to-cry-this-is-so-tragic sadness, but it’s-a-shame-this-won’t-last-but-I’m-going-to-enjoy-it-anyway sadness. Because that’s what this song is about. With lines like “You’re my favorite moment/You’re my Saturday” and “Sunset only seconds/Just right then it’s gone,” Alison pines about loving someone while knowing (and accepting) that it probably won’t last forever. Maybe sad is the wrong word. Maybe it’s more like “Let’s just enjoy this while it lasts, yeah?” Carpe diem. The music video is clearly inspired by the line “I’m like a dog to get you.” (Also, how sexy is Alison acting like a dog? I’m including the part where she scratches her rear like a dog would, but with her hand instead of her foot.)

BONUS!!! If you have the bonus track version of the album, you get “Beautiful,” a lovely, seductive song. “Number 1” makes a better closing track, but this one is still a great add-on.

If you’re a first time Goldfrapp-listener, go for Supernature! It’s a super smart pop/electronica album (if you don’t like the slightly snootier, more specific labels of electroclash and synthpop, because that’s what it really is). I don’t like to use the phrase “It’s a thinking person’s [X]” for the reason that [X] is implied to be stupid, banal, and lesser. And it makes you sound like a pompous, stuck-up ass. But…if I WERE to use that phrase, I’d say Goldfrapp is a thinking person’s Madonna. I still like Madonna. I would just take Supernature or anything Goldfrapp in general over anything Madonna has (or possibly still will) put out any day. ANY DAY.

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Black Cherry

I found out recently that Goldfrapp will not be coming to the United States to tour for their most recent album Tales of UsThis was pretty devastating news for me. I might have had a chance to see them when they came to the US for the Head First World Tour back in 2010, but I either hadn’t gotten back into Goldfrapp at that time, or I wasn’t crazy about Head First (I think it was the latter). Anyway, in a fit of sadness, I listened to Goldfrapp pretty much nonstop in the following days.

I’m holding my breath for the day that Goldfrapp returns to the US (and LA). At least I got to see the recorded-live concert at a local theater. Until I get to see them live-live, I’ll keep returning to their albums. The one I’d like to return to this time is Black Cherry, their second studio album. Send the kids out of the room for this one, ’cause this album is all about sex. Let’s just go ahead and say this post (especially the videos) will be NSFW.

“Crystalline Green” is really the best song to start with. It starts very mellow but thumping, slowly gets bigger and grander till it’s just Allison making music with her voice, sounding like an angel, till finally there’s a release and the song winds down and fades out, making you feel warm and euphoric at the end of it all.

Which makes the grating, electroclashy “Train” feel like a delightful electric shock. It wakes you up in the right way. And it’s a song about LA, though not a very positive one. I still like that it captures the sleezy, nighttime face of the city though. I’m not going to say they’re wrong about any of it. The music video feels more Vegas than LA to me though. Still, I get what she’s saying about being disgusted by the wealthy lifestyle most people associate with the city while still being drawn into it.

“Black Cherry” isn’t my favorite track, but it still gets my attention for being about something very personal to Allison which she apparently doesn’t like to talk about. It’s slow and pining and a little bit sad. I don’t think it’s too hard to guess at the meaning, but the shroud surrounding the specific details make it alluring enough.

“Tiptoe” brings back the electroclash. The slight distortion over Allison’s vocals make it interesting to listen to. It works really, really well with the song. Even when the distortion lifts and we get to hear her hit the higher notes with clarity, it all meshes wonderfully with the electronic buzzing and lilting strings.

The name of the track “Deep Honey” sounds like a really good innuendo. The song is just as sultry as its name, especially with Allison’s near-indistinguishable whispers at the end, but truthfully it’s another sad and dreary (in a good way) track. It’s very much…languishing. It still manages to be sexy somehow.

Speaking of sexy, next up it’s “Hairy Trees,” another track hinting at innuendo. It doesn’t take long to guess what she’s getting at when she croons “Touch my garden.” The whole song is a soft and dreamy sex fantasy. Nothing too wild (oh, but believe me, we’ll get to that later). More like gentle love-making in the countryside. It sounds like something a teenage girl would dream about, but only a fully grown woman could write.

“Twist” is where things start to get truly naughty. There’s no beating around the bush though: this song is about cunnilingus. (Oh ho ho! See what I did there?) Specifically, the song is about the sexual fantasy Allison had when she was younger, which involved a boy who ran the waltzer (aka the Tilt-A-Whirl) at a fairground. “Twist,” then, works as a double entendre. The video goes with the carnival ride theme, but in a very grown up way.

It’s a one-two punch of sex with “Strict Machine” up next. Allison has said that the song inspiration came from a news article she’d read about lab rats in a neuroscience experiment, in which scientists stimulated the rats’ brains so that they felt joy when following commands. So, appropriately, what follows is an S&M club-type track. I read about it being compared to Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” and wow-wow-wow is that a great comparison! It’s got that same mesmerized, enamored, begging sound, especially in the chorus. The music video is absolutely hypnotic. It way it follows the sound and themes of the track is just brilliant.

“Forever” makes a great wind-down track. It’s a nice slow-burn after the previous two tracks. It’s a lot like “Black Cherry” but much less melancholy, even though it’s slow and soft too, almost sleepy, like you’re hearing it in a dream.

The closing track is “Slippage” (we get it!), a song which has no words, just more electronic noises and a lot of Allison moaning and groaning, sighing and screaming. It sounds very sexy when described like that, but it’s got a very dark sound. It’s like the type of song you’d hear at a seedy strip club at 3 in the morning. Which is still kind of sexy, in a way only Goldfrapp could manage.

Black Cherry isn’t my favorite Goldfrapp album, but it’s not my least favorite either. I think it was a great way to break the expectations set by their previous debut album, and it set the tone for their next one. And overall, let’s admit it, it’s a great sex album.

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Ride a White Horse

Last month, I wrote briefly about my general distaste for rock videos. I thought, then, that it would be a good idea to show exactly what I believe a music video can be by sharing one of my favorites, and that is Goldfrapp’s “Ride a White Horse.”

Why is it one of my favorites? Because it’s the opposite of you might expect a music video to be. Wait, what? I know what you’re thinking. After going on a mini rant about what a music video should be, I go on to praise a music video that defies that?

Well, sort of. I said that a music video is an art form to be explored. I think what some people might expect a music video to be is something glamorous and beautiful – After all, the artist is promoting themselves (and their song/single). Who wouldn’t want to look good?

But Goldfrapp chooses to be un-glamorous. Alison looks amazing, as always, but what’s the first image you see? A piece of toilet paper stuck to her heel. Very un-glamorous. Then she grabs a microphone made from a cardboard tube and wadded up tinfoil. How tawdry. A series of gross and disturbing images follows, including rotting food and dead fish. Later, she stomps on a dance floor made of cardboard and duct tape, eats a pizza topped with cigarette butts and bottle caps, and dances with dirt-smudged men who crawl out of a dumpster. SO UN-GLAMOROUS.

I generally don’t advise anyone to read YouTube comments, but I’ll share this little nugget of gold from roytheboy68 (I know) who proclaims:

This vid annoys me. Great song, she looks great and then she FUCKS IT UP with that imagery. Give me a break. It’s not “creative” or “edgy” it’s just annoying.

Exactly the point, dude. If this video makes your boner wilt like sad puppy dog’s tail, then Goldfrapp has succeeded. This video is not meant to turn anyone on – It’s meant to do the opposite. Yes, Goldfrapp looks GORGEOUS, but that is not the point. If you are distracted by worms in some kind of brownish juice and a man wrapped in toilet paper eating out of a garbage can – that IS the point.

The title of song refers to Bianca Jagger’s entrance into Studio 54 on a white horse, while the song itself is inspired by the disco era in general. Dancing at the disco (even in the modern sense) has a glamorous feeling to it, as one usually gets dressed and made up very fancy to go there. So Goldfrapp COULD have done a video that followed the theme if the song, but what fun would that be? That would be boring.

So to all the roytheboy68’s out there: I relish your disgust. And I’m sure Goldfrapp does too.

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