After the enormous cult success of Felt Mountain (2000) and their first dabblings in the world of commercial pop with the sublime Black Cherry (2003), Supernature was Goldfrapp‘s third album, and remains their most commercially successful to date. Now that it’s exactly a decade old, this seems a good opportunity to reappraise it.
Supernature draws very heavily on the glam-electro side of Black Cherry, and does so with gusto. From the first track Ooh La La, you can immediately hear that they’ve found a whole lot of energy somewhere and channelled it into this album. What it lacks somewhat in places is the beauty of previous releases – ultimately there’s no Hairy Trees or Utopia here. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though, as Lovely 2 C U grabs you by the ears and gives you a very firm shake.
There’s little sign of the energy dissipating with third single Ride on a White Horse. It should be clear by now what the album is going to be, although for a moment it seems as though You Never Know might be the closest we’ll get to a downtempo moment here. The dark, grimey synth sounds are out in abundance – until Let it Take You, anyway. But sadly the one that actually serves as the slow number doesn’t quite seem to match the high standards set by the preceding two albums.
Final single Fly Me Away picks things up wonderfully, and the electro noises have been toned down too – they’re not a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination, but the break feels good. Ten years on, though, it’s hard not to feel Supernature might have been a little bit over-the-top.
Which is not to say the quality lapses at any point – both Slide In and Koko are great, but it’s difficult to view them objectively when you’ve already listened to half an hour of similar sounds. The exception is the glorious Satin Chic, which truly stands out as the best song on the album, as its honky tonk piano sounds propel it ahead of all its peers. For a long time, it was rumoured as a possible single, but ultimately that was never to be, and that’s definitely a shame.
The lovely, almost symphonic Time Out from the World leads us gently towards the end of the curiously both brilliant and flawed masterpiece which is Supernature. The final track is Number 1, which closes proceedings rather nicely in uptempo fashion.
As a postscript, the US version – released a few months later – also gets the b-side Beautiful, which seems a regrettable omission from the original album. It’s difficult to criticise, as the album seems a little too packed as it is, but Beautiful is a beautiful song, and really ought to be on here.
So Supernature really isn’t perfect – but it does contain a lot of great hit singles or potential hit singles, and with this Goldfrapp did, for a while, have a significant impact on the charts, with other acts drawing heavily from their sound. So, imperfect as it may be, listening to Supernature on its tenth anniversary has to be a good thing.