Sex, subversion, style, humour, songs: great pop music's greatest components. And Goldfrapp have always known it.
Through pioneering electronics, crystalline vocals, visual theatrics and glam-sex decadence, they've moved through the ambient shadows into the technicolour thrill that is the hallmark of classic British pop music. After 'Felt Mountain' (2000), their glacial, Mercury Award nominated debut, the second album - the Brit nominated 'Black Cherry' - was the benchmark of 2003. Here was the sound and vision of Art-Pop-Now; the crack of Marlene Dietrich's stiletto on Donna Summer's back, a thundering, sweat-lashed, discotronic soundscape which spawned remix requests from both Franz Ferdinand and Marilyn Manson. Its two euphoric, electro-stomp anthems, 'Train' and 'Strict Machine' (and their eye-lasering videos) were that year's peak of adrenalised, class-pop cool.
As an English duo who write and produce everything together, the new album, 'Supernature' is the sound of Goldfrapp breaking through their own crash barrier, a strident, psychedelic, 100% uncompromising creative force at the top of their very own game. Theirs is a self-made, alternative reality - in music, vision and soul. "We create our own, personalized environment," says Alison Goldfrapp, "and it's more how bands or duos used to do it in the 70s or 80s, your own music, art directing your own sleeves, wearing your own clothes, which is unique compared to a lot of bands. Now, you might get people writing their own music, if that. And they'll have a whole entourage creating all the other stuff. I like being part of that scene, the people who've created everything themselves." "It's an alternative reality," says Will Gregory, "taking ourselves somewhere else and that's why we do it."
The rest of the world seems to enjoy the trip too. From the first blast of 'Lovely Head' on 'Felt Mountain' through to 'Black Cherry', their sound and vision has spread organically through every medium. Their music has appeared in Europe and USA as the enigmatic soundtrack to a wide spectrum of film and TV. Since 2003, a Goldfrapp visual staple - the use of animalistic imagery - has spread throughout MTV, Harvey Nichols window displays and even BMW ads, a nod to their live show spectaculars where dancers wear stags heads and Alison shimmies her horses tail. "There's always been animals in there because I'm interested in nature and mythology," says Alison, "they're great metaphors for human emotions and ideas and have an unexplainable sensuality which is really attractive and mysterious."
They met in '99. "We checked each other out quite a lot before we endeavoured to make any sort of music," says Alison, "which was interesting because I'd always done it the other way around. You met in a room, didn't talk about it, just did it and it was all supposed to magically happen. But we were thorough about where we wanted to go and it wasn't about who was wearing a cool jacket or cool trainers or something absolutely fucking dull. These people who were supposed to be radical and cutting edge were actually incredibly safe. It was about what kind of music you should be doing. Or shouldn't. It was 'you can't put strings in there because they're far too sentimental and romantic'. All these 'cant's' because it wasn't cool. Very 90s."
Goldfrapp knew better than that, long term lovers of left field, widescreen, pan-European avant-garde, from Serge Gainsborough to 70s Polish disco, from Kate Bush to Prince, they refuse to be limited. The new album continues their only theme - of infinite possibility - created near Bath, where they both now live. "We rented a chintzy cottage in nowhere land," says Alison, "and just filled it with all the gear. But it's not Georgian glory, it's much more crusty than that, which is a good thing. It's more bushes and chintzy sofas. 70s Hoovers next to synthesizers. Amplifiers next to microwave ovens." Will: "And bread-bins. There's a view, horses running around outside." Alison: So in the midst of all the synthesizers there's probably a few lawnmowers and birds tweeting. We've made an electronic, glam cross between Berlin, New York and north-east Somerset."
Again they have created a landscape all their own - breathe in deeply and let it fill you with colours, huge washes of electronics, machines that grow thorns and petals, passion blooming on a diet of synths and strings.
'Supernature' takes everything 'Black Cherry' achieved and boots it into infinity, with a thrilling, lip-glossed euphoria (mixed by Spike Stent, legendary twiddler for Madonna, Bjork, Massive Attack, U2, everyone else).
"We've stepped up a gear," says Alison, "because we're more knowledgeable. With 'Black Cherry' we were still discovering ourselves whereas this time we're just much more confident." "We've grown a lot," adds Will, "found other ways of expressing. We've even got a couple of guitars on this album." "It's always good to break your own rules," laughs Alison, "that's the fun bit. There's bigger dirty bass lines and guitars, alongside the synths and strings.
From the off, 'Supernature' is a colossal, multi-layered, sonic-pop thriller, a radical, confident, bold record, like a Roxy or Revolver for the twenty-first century: the acid-tinged, bewitchingly-sung ' U Never Know', the irresistible, catch-all throb of 'Lovely To See You', the roaring Numanoid synths of 'Koko Nights' the woozy, orchestral dreamscape of 'Time Out From The World', the perverted robotics of 'Slide In' and the gorgeous, beguiling 'Let It Take You'. Before that, though, there's 'Satin Chic' featuring Will, going berserk, on the honky-tonk piano. "Great fun," grins Alison, "quirky and a bit nasty but simple as well, lots of references to colours, competitiveness and possessiveness, exaggerated through these 'boings'. I remember, years ago, going to see Jah Shaka and thinking that he was absolutely amazing with all the homemade equipment he had and the sheer inventiveness. It was really inspiring and has stayed with me ever since. I was yelling in the studio, stupid with excitement. 'Get those 'boings' up'!"
And, of course, the traditionally sizzling Goldfrapp first single, 'Ooh La La', a pulsing, sophisticated, glam-pop dynamo featuring Alison's homage to the almighty, aloof, playful vocals of classic Marc Bolan. "Decadent and ooh-la-la," notes Alison, correctly. "We've always been into layered vocals and how they treated vocals on albums in the 70s, using slap-back effects and thick drum sounds. I love that campness, that slightly throwaway but slightly nasty poutiness which is always appealing. And Marc Bolan was always bloody great at that. As was Marlene Dietrich. Sulky, sexual and ambiguous." The 'Ooh La La' video, naturally, is vibrant, visceral, sexualized insanity. "Glam fantasy," says Alison, "with lots of post-production and fantasy graphics. Wanton girl goes wrong. Broken heart and fuck off."
Through 2004, Goldfrapp's reputation as a visually astounding live band was sealed, obliterating forever any misconception that the music is the work of some tinkery boffins who live in a scientist's cell. "We're not a studio band," says Alison, "we're a duo at work."
And performance-art believers in Spectacle, who flood their stage-show with cabaret craft, showgirls, tit tasslers and the aforementioned dancers, wearing stag heads. " I really enjoy the freedom of having other people on stage," decides Alison, "but I always found it slightly frustrating not being able to see the tit tassling, as it was happening behind me. I have this picture in my mind of these tits going round and round and round and what the hell does that look like? I love it. Last year's live highlight was definitely Glastonbury, it's such an English institution and it went brilliantly, with the sun going down. We were on just after Franz Ferdinand which was weird because they were the 'it' band at the time. And they were very sweet. They all bowed to us before we walked onstage which I thought was very charming."
Other notable dates were in Poland and Serbia, "bonkers " and a particularly memorable night at The Scala, north London, at the capital's mythological 'gay indie' night, 'Popstarz'. "Absolutely insane," laughs Alison, "we weren't prepared for that at all, the audience were screaming so loud we couldn't actually hear ourselves so we had to tell them to stop! And the grand finale was I fell over at the end in a state of delirium. Fantastic. I've never experienced anything like it actually."
Goldfrapp are going overground, taking their rightful place, in 2005, at the cutting edge of flashing-dancefloor pop - creating brand new greatness, inspiring a generation. "We can't wait for the new record to come out now," says Alison, "because this time there's so much more. More drama, more colour, more diversity, everything we love about what we do, just… more. Oooh, it's exciting!"