“Happiness is the object and design of our existence, and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it…”
(Joseph Smith, founder of Mormonism)
“Join our group and you will find
Harmony and peace of mind
Make it better
We’re here to welcome you”
I know exactly what the next record by certain acts and artists is going to sound like, not just before I hear it, but before the artist themselves have even written it. I’m not a psychic, a medium or a clairvoyant, it’s just that I’ve heard their last record…and the one before that…and the one before that…and they all sound, well, the same. Not just similar, but the same.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
They have an audience and that audience doesn’t want things to change, they just want to hear things that sound like the things they already like. Fine. People like what they like and some people don’t want to be challenged or to step outside of the world they have carefully constructed for themselves.
Goldfrapp are not for you.
There is no way of knowing what the next Goldfrapp album will sound like.
Over more than 20 years they have delivered electronic, pop, music hall, trip-hop, glam rock, pastoral, folk and classic English pop that sounds like it was made anywhere, and everywhere, other than England. Maybe in “A Field In England”, such are the dizzying, disorientating, disquieting, effects of so much of what they do.
For me it started with an appearance on “Later with Jools Holland” in April of 2001. “It’s a strange day, no colours or shapes, no sound in my head, I forget who I am”. That was it. I needed nothing more. I knew that this was a band I could give myself to completely. Trip-hoppin’ beats, strings, romance, drama and, crucially, honesty. Everything about it was pure. The lighting, the clothes, the sounds, the words. Precious.
Tonight is the first time I have seen them live. I don’t know why. The noughties were a strange time for me. I lost myself in a post Britpop fug. I had married at the end of the previous decade, I was devoting more and more of myself to work and religion…silly, silly, boy. I still bought records. I still loved music. But I was disconnecting in many ways from many of the things that had defined me. I wasn’t sure who I was…
There is a string quartet, there is a guitar being strummed by former Strangelove and Suede chap, Alex Lee, there is a bass, keyboards and technical wonkery. And at the centre of it all, maybe at the centre of everything, is Alison.
Without making a sound, without moving, she captures the hearts and souls of everyone in the room from the moment she positions herself at the front of the stage. A star. The embodiment of charisma. A force of nature. She has no need to bellow or fist pump, she only needs to be present and we are all with her.
This is meant to be a return to the start of the Goldfrapp story. The evening dedicated to “Felt Mountain”, the sort of thing so many bands do…a run through a classic album, but where other bands, other albums, rely on nostalgia, rose tinted spectacles and an audience willing to forgive the filler in order to bask in the flashes of killer, Goldfrapp can play something that is more than 20 years old and make it sound like the future of music. Nothing tonight feels old, there is no room for nostalgia when what is being presented is so thrilling. This is the genesis story, but it is also the book of revelation. The template for who, and what, Goldfrapp are and would be is writ large in every beat.
There is, of course, something cinematic about “Felt Mountain”. The score for the greatest modernist film noir never made. Kubrickian care and mystery in every groove. Alison as both Joan Crawford and Bette Davis. But there is no need for the flash, bang and sleight of hand of modern cinema…no need to fill every moment with meaningless dialogue and effects, the story is strong enough to tell itself. Hitchcock would have adored it.
At times tonight my heart doesn’t just skip a beat, it stops. At the end of “Human” I am in tears, it is one of the most powerful and affecting things I have ever seen at a live performance by a band. It feels like someone has reached into my chest to caress my broken heart. The drama, the passion, the beauty of it kills me, momentarily, and I am only resurrected by the roar of the crowd.