Konnichiwa! This is Irina Cummings and I'm here to discuss one of the most brilliant, innovative, and creative artists in the entire history of mankind: Goldfrapp – or as I like to call them, GODfrapp – the fantastique, highly inspirational, and sometimes criminally overlooked electronic music duo from London consisting of Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory, whose godly music has certainly influenced the vast majority of today's synthpop ladies, including Lady Gaga, Little Boots, La Roux, Annie and Florence + the Machine (not electro but still worth your while).
They're primarily known for their mind-blowing music (which have spanned pretty much every style of electronic music – and some non-electronic as well), their abstract, sexually ambiguous – at times forthright – lyrics which are often not gender-specific, and their elaborate shows, not to mention the amazing visual aesthetics of their work, conjuring images that masterly complement their music. They also appear to have a certain fascination with animals, as each of their albums (except Head First) is represented by a different animal – deer, wolf, horse, and owl.
|SHUT UP EVERYONE, HER PUSSY HAS SOMETHING IMPORTANT TO SAY|
|Yes, that thing in the middle does resemble a vagina, even Alison herself has acknowledged it|
Things started back in the '90s, amidst the prolific UK trip-hop scene and whatnot. Felt Mountain is a really cinematic, atmospheric record that has this sort of Marlene Dietrich vibe going on, incorporating a number of styles such as trip-hop, ambient, chamber pop and folk. It makes you think of a cute little bungalow in a snowy landscape in the English countryside. Althought the album didn't sell much (well, probably not enough copies to pay their rent), it sure became a critical success.
You see, the thing with Felt Mountain is that, while I do admit it's a fantastic album, I'm not too crazy about it. I really, really wanted to get myself to like it, but I just can't. Okay, "Utopia" is a great, sensual song, and I do have it on my iPod (more precisely the "Genetically Enriched" version, which differs slightly from the original song). There's also "Human," with its intriguing lyrics ("Are you human or a dud?") and its mambo/spy-movie sound. Oh, and the opening lyric to "Paper Bag" – "No time to fuck" – which this essay was named after.
Black Cherry (2003)
Now that's where things start to get interesting. And sexual. Since Alison found the whole Felt Mountain thing really claustrophobic, the duo decided to spice things up a bit and came up with this deliciously decadent set, expanding their sound to the realms of synthpop, electroclash, glam rock and techno. It's important to note that Goldfrapp pretty much created their own version of electroclash for this album (and later Supernature). I mean, I do love stuff like Peaches and Client, but some of electroclash tends to get a little, uh... tacky. Fischerspooner anyone?
Indulgent and titillating, Black Cherry is the perfect soundtrack to an electric cabaret, as it takes a more upfront approach to sexually charged lyrics (but not in a vapid, unimaginative way). Its themes includes sex, sex, sex, more sex, neurotechnology, mysticism and "the idea of metamorphosis and humans wanting to be like animals and animals wanting to be like humans." Critics loved it and so did the general public, considering it fared way better on the charts than their debut.
"Strict Machine" – the ultimate soundtrack to my personal forays into BDSM and
"Crystalline Green" is downright eargasmic, it's like a sexual trip on some psychoactive drug – I can literally feel the rush running through my whole body! The serene, airy "Hairy Tree" maintains the duo's trip-hop roots, albeit in a more sultry context, including lyrics such as "Touch my garden" and "Ride my pony." "Train" is pure sex and that's all you need to know.
My favorite Goldfrapp album ever. Seriously, it's just that perfect! Overall, Supernature is dark, sexy, glittery, and alluring, maintaining the S&M sleaze and the synthpop/electroclash/new wave sound of its predecessor. This time around, however, the glam rock influences are even more prominent, while also adding a '70s New York disco flavor to it. The album wound up being even more commercially successful than Black Cherry, debuting at No. 2 on the UK chart behind James Blunt. Whatever, Goldfrapp will always be superior to that whiny-voiced one-hit wonder.
"Ooh La La" is an impeccable, glammy synth-guitar affair that finds Ali cooing seductively on how she "doesn't want it Baudelaire, just glitter lust" (you and I both), along with an irresistible chorus. The track is also noted for its use of Schaffel beats – characteristic of glam rock – previously heard on "Strict Machine," which sparked certain controversy due to comparisons to Rachel Stevens' "Some Girls" (produced by the great Richard X), a song queen Ali branded "very bland." Ouch. It's all good now, kids: Richard would later produce "Alive" for Goldie's album Head First in 2010.
|This is Charles Baudelaire, by the way|
My all-time favorite Goldfrapp song is "Slide In." Epic, futuristic and erotic, to me it's the musical equivalent to having my brains fucked out mercilessly, complete with infectious synths and near-orgasmic moans. The pulsating electro-disco jam "Ride a White Horse" evokes the decadence of Studio 54. And no, it's not about heroine, coke or any other drug. See, at this point, Goldfrapp's lyrics are usually perceived to be about either sex or drugs, or both, which is not always the case.
|Don't they look like they could be sisters?|
One thing that sets Supernature apart from Black Cherry lies in the former's inclusion of warmer, more emotional numbers, namely "You Never Know," "Fly Me Away," "Koko," and "Number 1" – the latter is a bittersweet song about "the importance and meaningfulness that somebody shares with another, despite that it might not necessarily last." I'd shed a tear right now if I hadn't sold my tear ducts to an organ bank for cash three years ago. The video is a bit nonsensical in that I feel it fails to capture the song's true meaning. Yes, I'm aware it includes a line as ambigous as "I'm like a dog to get you," but still.
"Fly Me Away," also one of my all-time faves, is filled with psychedelic synths, but in a very dreamy, escapist manner. It's a song about simply getting away from it all. The accompanying video was directed by Andreas Nilsson, known for working extensively with gods like The Knife and Fever Ray, which pretty much explains the video's trippiness.
Seventh Tree (2008)
Words are not enough to express how much I love this lovely little album. Inspired by paganism and surreal English children's books, Seventh Tree (named after a dream Ali had about a very large tree) is reflective, dreamy, melancholic, atmospheric, and ethereal, evocative of a lazy Sunday afternoon in a summer field. If Black Cherry and Supernature were the glamorous, sequin-covered dancefloor, Seventh Tree is music for after the party, wandering the streets on your way home as dawn nears.
This is the duo's most critically acclaimed album to date, and once again it debuted unfairly at No. 2 in the UK (this time behind Amy Winehouse, so it's somewhat acceptable). Sonically, the album consists mostly of folktronica, downtempo, ambient, and trip-hop. The lyrics, while maintaining the esoterism and ambiguity of their previous albums, are more personal and generally inspired by Ali's own relationships and life experiences, with heartbreak being a recurring theme – not in a boring, cringeworthy Adele way, thankfully.
The album opens with "Clowns," which features Ali's nearly wordless vocalization over a minimalistic acoustic guitar arrangement and lyrics about tits. Yes, tits. Ali is basically criticizing a girl for wanting to look like a Barbie through breast implants (hence the "balloons") and fake tan. "Happiness" marries a bubbly tune with somewhat dark, sinister lyrics. The exact meaning is not easily discernible, as Ali doesn't publicly discuss her lyrics very often, though some people have suggested it's about cults, especially Scientology. Either way, the video is nothing short of fucking brilliant.
"Road to Somewhere" is certainly one of the album's standout tracks, blending haunting arrangements with melancholic lyrics. You can literally feel the pain in Ali's voice, especially in the lines "Listening to the radio like a friend that guides me / Playing out every song we used to know." "A&E," which I also love to death, was inspired by Ali's visit to the A&E (short for "accident and emergency," known in the United States as ER) department of a hospital on a Saturday afternoon, where the doctors pumped her up with loads of painkillers, a situation she would describe as "a bit surreal." The song itself is a metaphor for a horrible relationship, where she still wants the guy and it makes her feel sad and hopeless, so she overdoses on pills and ends up in A&E. Ugh, too close to home. Minus the pills, I guess.
Another brilliant cut is the sensual, bittersweet "Cologne Cerrone Houdini," on which Ali wistfully wonders, "Could we be together in another world?" To me, this song is about those moments of perfection you share with someone special, although deep down, for some reason, you know you can't have them. I swear this bitch somehow got into my mind and stole my thoughts.
Head First (2010)
Before we go any further on our Frapptastic journey, I'd like to take a brief moment to explain something very serious: Due to budget constraints, here's how the artwork for the duo's next album turned out to be:
|Much better, huh?|
Goldfrapp finally became unapologetic about their '80s influences – think pink spandex, laser beams, ABBA, and Xanadu. Some
however, weren't too pleased, accusing the duo of playing
catch-up to artists they have most
certainly influenced over the past decade, including Gaga, La Roux, and Little Boots. Okay, I admit Head First is
not as ambitious or groundbreaking as their previous efforts, but that
doesn't stop it from being a glorious collection of retro-futuristic
synth-disco euphoria. The song "Rocket," unlike most Goldfrapp songs,
has a simple meaning, although quite empowering: It sees Ali sending a
cheating boyfriend away on a rocket, as shown in its music video.
How come I never thought of this before?
My favorite song has got to be the celestial "Dreaming," which always puts me in a relaxed, blissful mood with its shimmering synths. "Alive" echoes ABBA and has one of the most awesome videos I've seen in a long time, in which Ali portrays an '80s aerobics instructor teaching a group of black metal dudes and Olivia Newton-John-like female dancers who turn into vampires. "Believer" is borderline cheesy with lyrics like "A cupid on the go / No arrow and no bow," but it's otherwise really good.
Earlier this year, in February, the duo released a retrospective compilation titled The Singles, which contains most of their hits plus two brand-new tracks. It's a good way to get into the fantastic world of Goldfrapp, although perhaps not enough to achieve a "frappgasm" (did I really say that?).
Before we end our journey, make sure you check two of Goldfrapp's awesome remixes:
That's all for now. Hope y'all have enjoyed this as much as I did. ;)