Ten years ago this week – or, if you want to feel even older, exactly a decade ago – was the release of one of my favourite albums of all time, Black Cherry by Goldfrapp.
Coming two and a half long years on the heels of their exceptional debut Felt Mountain, Black Cherry was an immensely exciting release. Just weeks before, they had unleashed the slightly grimy magnificence of lead single Train, and now we had a whole album to look forward to, mixing the lush beauty of the previous album with the dark electro goodness of the single. And there wasn’t a hint of disappointment.
Kicking off the album are the raw sounds of Crystalline Green. It’s difficult to convey exactly how exciting my first listen of this album would have been. The closest Goldfrapp had come to this kind of sound previously was their brilliant cover of UK Girls (Physical) on the bonus disc of their debut album.
The single Train follows, sadly nothing like the commercial success it deserved to be. Without a doubt it’s up there among the best singles of 2003, perhaps only eclipsed by the second single. The rhythm drives ever onwards, and by the time its four minutes are almost up you’re wondering if it will ever actually come to an end. Sadly, it does.
It’s followed by the fourth single Black Cherry, with its lush overtones reminding you why Felt Mountain was such an exceptional album. The general trend of darker track followed by more gentle track follows for much of the rest of the album, as the feedback-driven Tiptoe mixes into the beautifully soft Deep Honey.
My favourite track is Hairy Trees, which is entirely seductive in its softness. Couple that with a rather cheeky lyric (“Touch my garden” and so-on) and you have something rather special. From its very first flute chords, I don’t see how you could describe it as anything other than absolute bliss – total aural perfection.
Third single Twist is up next, perhaps a little less exciting than some of its neighbours, but still quite exceptional. It kicks off with sharp analogue howls which help carry you from innocuous verses about rabbit stew into perhaps one of the most overtly obscene singles I can think of.
The second (and also fifth) single Strict Machine follows, rhythmic, somewhat glam, and entirely beautiful. All the other acts who were copying Goldfrapp‘s style at this time really owe them a huge debt, as do the British record buying public for allowing it to scrape number 25 and number 20 respectively. It deserved better, frankly. The single version, mixed by Dave Bascombe, is probably the best of the bunch, but Goldfrapp‘s own We Are Glitter version on the reissued single is pretty exceptional too.
Then comes Forever, again the quieter counterpart to its predecessor, and not unlike the title track in its general feel and mood. And as with the first single, the album is nearly at an end. The last track Slippage is the only vaguely weak track on an otherwise perfect album, but calling it weak is really only comparative – this is, without a doubt, one of my favourite albums.
You can grab Black Cherry on iTunes here or alternatively through all the normal outlets.