Goldfrapp took a big chance when they abandoned the swoonsome muzak of 2001’s Felt Mountain for the kinky machinery of 2003’s glamtastic Black Cherry. Few had anticipated the switch from the neo-John-Barry soundscapes of “Utopia” and “Lovely Head” to the dirty flirtation of “Train” and “Twist”. Verve and yearning merged on Black Cherry in songs of spellbinding sexiness.
Supernature – its title a clear nod to the late ‘70s Eurodisco of Cerrone and friends – builds on Black Cherry and takes its salacious plasticity to a logical pop extreme. Constructed in a Somerset cottage rather than a Berlin compound, the duo’s third album kicks off with three thumping teen-disco outings (the single “Ooh La La”, “Lovely to See You”, “Ride a White Horse”) that forge an unlikely but inspired fusion of Marc Bolan and Giorgio Moroder.
The soundtrack to some low-rent Studio 54 of the mind, the three tracks derive from what Alison G accurately calls the “[the] slightly throwaway but slightly nasty poutiness” of Chinnichap glam. Which is fine, except that here the hooks are rather less arresting than the equivalent moments on Black Cherry: “Lovely to See You”, for instance, is almost self-consciously crass, melodically dumbed-down where “Twist” and “Strict Machine” were artfully ambiguous. If “Slide In” and “Beautiful” pick up where “Twist” et al left off, “Fly Me Away” is oddly ordinary.
Supernature evokes other synthpop ghosts – Gary Numan on “Koko”, “Blue Monday”-era New Order on “White Horse” – and even dabbles in Scissor Sisters faux-honkytonk on the Top Of The Pops romp of “Satin Chic”. Meanwhile for those who fear the fading of the duo’s lush melancholia, the iridescent “U Never Know” (followed by the plangent reverie of “Let It Take U”, with actual acoustic piano) already scores high in the Loveliest Song Of The Year parade; a diamond of a song to stand alongside “Black Cherry”, “Deep Honey” and its heartache kin. “Time Out for the World”, finally, is the ultimate Theme For An Imaginary Bond Movie.
Black Cherry this ain’t, then. As a companion piece to its genius predecessor, though, Supernature is plenty to be going on with.
By Barney Hoskins