Goldfrapp: Supernature

Adrien Begrand

Goldfrapp's bid for pop stardom is decidedly calculated, but not without a curveball or two.



Label: Mute
US Release Date: Available as import
UK Release Date: 2005-08-22

While Alison Goldfrapp comes closer and closer to becoming a legitimate pop star in the UK and Europe, two and a half years ago, we didn't expect her transformation from a demurely clad trip-hop siren to a patent leather wearing sexpot at all. One moment, she's pictured in Felt Mountain wearing a gigantic pair of wellies, singing about pilots watching stars and looking rather reserved in concert; the next, she's showing off her legs on the inner sleeve of Black Cherry, singing about her knicker lace, and dancing so suggestively onstage with a mini theremin, that had he been alive to see it, Léon Théremin would have sold his invention as a marital aid, not a musical instrument. It was an astonishing transformation by the chameleonic Ms. Goldfrapp, the more we saw her perform on television and in concert, the more her popularity grew, the more the lady seemed to emerge from her shell. By the time her single "Strict Machine" broke in 2004, Goldfrapp seemed ready for the big time, and at the rate she was going, there was no way she'd squander the opportunity.

So it should be no surprise that there are no surprises on the new Goldfrapp album, as it sticks with the same formula as Black Cherry, only slightly simplified, with a few minor variations here and there. Although Supernature lacks the imagination of Felt Mountain and the saucy brilliance of Black Cherry, it doesn't pander to the pop crowd. In fact, the highly creative duo of Goldfrapp and Will Gregory (we tend to forget Goldfrapp are a band, and not a solo artist) ingeniously sidestep simple categorization. While there are hooks aplenty and loads of contagious dance beats, the enigmatic quality that made fans fall in love with the music four years ago is still present, albeit in a more accessible package.

Goldfrapp have always displayed a fascination with vintage pop sounds, from '80s synth pop ("UK Girls" incorporated Olivia Newton John's "Physical") to classic European disco (the icy cover of Baccara's "Yes Sir, I Can Boogie"), but it was glam that dominated Black Cherry, as the singles "Train" and "Strict Machine" (especially the "We Are Glitter" mix of the latter) borrowed heavily from the then-burgeoning electronic "schaffel" trend in Germany, which in turn was heavily indebted to such seminal '70s glam rock tunes as T. Rex's "Hot Love". On the new album, Goldfrapp are clearly in if-it-ain't broke mode, as the opening track (and lead single) "Ooh La La" closely follows "Strict Machine"'s lead, with its bouncing synth line, the shuffling 2/4 beat, and cascading synths near the end. However, that gimmick remains something they do incredibly well, and when the chorus kicks in, Alison lala-ing away, it's impossible not to give in. The song sets the tone for the entire album; like she says, she don't want Beaudelaire, just glitter lust, and the record literally sparkles with it (wait... are those glitter phalluses on the CD booklet?).

While Black Cherry seemed to serve up ace after ace, Supernature is less direct, eschewing big choruses in favor of much more subtle hooks. An obvious nod to T. Rex's "Ride a White Swan", "Ride a White Horse" sounds destined for club hit status; a blend of insistent dance beats and an ethereal chorus, Goldfrapp shifts from a cold, husky croon to more euphoric tones, to the kind of vocal acrobatics that will elicit comparisons to Kate Bush. The electro-tinged "Fly Me Away" audaciously veers into Ladytron territory, but suddenly bursts into a gently lilting chorus, as Goldfrapp displays the kind of vocal skill that sets her apart from her peers. The buoyant "Satin Chic" is carried by fun little piano fills, reminiscent of early Elton John, while the Numanesque "Number 1" proves to be the real charmer on the disc, Goldfrapp sounding absolutely beguiling, equally lovestruck ("You're my favorite moment/ You're my Saturday") and voracious ("I'm like a dog to get you"), while Gregory provides a gorgeous, Human League style backdrop.

Goldfrapp and Gregory are smart enough not to let their poppier moments overshadow the rest of the record, balancing the upbeat tracks on Supernature with plenty of more laid-back compositions. The sultry "You Never Know" and the tender "Let it Take You" both achieve an impressive balance between Felt Mountain's classy trip hop and Black Cherry's synth-oriented leanings, but it's on "Koko" where they show the most growth, blending a small hint of sitar underneath the grandiose synth chords with Goldfrapp's most understated vocal work on the album.

"Lovely 2 C U" is the one track on the album that sounds a bit too tame for its own good, but as this album proves, even when Goldfrapp pay it safe, the music is still more daring and ultimately rewarding than much of the best saccharine pop coming out of the UK these days, Gregory's production lending a more sophisticated air, as opposed to Richard X's more ostentatious pop genius. If Rachel Stevens is bubblegum, Goldfrapp are crème brulee, and Supernature deserves to be savored.


In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.