Just when we thought there was nothing left in the moribund corpse of trip-hopping soundtrack Euromuzak, along came Allison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory to breathe extraordinary new life into its petrified limbs. So farewell, then, Stereolab. And adieu Portishead while we’re about it. Felt Mountain was one of the great sonic events of 2001, not least because it was so much more than the chic reassembling of parts?and because its songs were as unsettlingly rich and strange as they were cool and clever. Who could forget the jolt of the opening to “Paper Bag”, “No time to fuck/But you like the rush”? Indeed.
And now, two years later, there’s another jolt. Brilliantly, Goldfrapp and Gregory have chosen not to repeat themselves. Sure, the duo intermittently drop back into the pastoral post-trip hop of Felt Mountain, but the tone of Black Cherry is set from the opening bars of first track “Crystalline Green”. Welcome to the brave neu world of funky glam disco, ‘frapp-style.
Electro-funky and headily lovely, “Crystalline Green” is just one of the album’s several masterpieces. Dirty, squirty synths drive “Train” and the Chinnichap-meets-Amii-Stewart “Strict Machine”, the first a kinky Helmut Newton postcard from Hollywood Babylon, the second a cheeky electroclash item built around hilarious ’80s-style sexual/electrical metaphors. Best of all, maybe, is “Twist”, the sexiest song of 2003 so far. “Put your dirty angel face/Between my legs and knicker lace,” purrs Allison to her paramour. I defy you to resist this squealing teen dream of a song, with its pounding stomp-beat and growling synth fills.
The yang to “Twist”‘s yin is the enshrouding melancholia of the title track, with its slow descending chords and shimmering mellotron padding?loss, allegedly, that comes straight from Goldfrapp’s heart. How it must have bled.
I doubt there’ll be many better albums released this year.