A popular argument against mash-ups is that they neither use nor create anything new under the sun. An easy “in” for musicians and producers of questionable skill, they are the hammy results of matched existing rhythms and chord progressions. Where Goldfrapp once made original music like “Train” and “Strict Machine” that became fodder for these bootlegs, their third album Supernature eliminates the middleman.The problems start on note one of track one, “Ooh La La.” The instrumentation borrows so much from ZZ Top’s “La Grange” that it sounds like Alison Goldfrapp singing over ZZ Top samples. Had this been an actual mash-up you would have been instructed to be mildly entertained, but as unique songwriting, not so much.
The failed juxtapositions continue on “Ride a White Horse,” where Goldfrapp gives the 1930s German cabaret treatment to undeserving lyrics like “Now take me dancing at the disco / where you park your Winnebago.” Goldfrapp’s words may have meaning elsewhere but her whispers and wails obscure them to the point of annoyance.
Her partner Will Gregory tries to split the difference between music that’s cold and minimal or hot and massive. Works like “You Never Know” and “Number 1,” therefore, barely pass for lukewarm pie a la Depeche Mode.
Like the neophyte mash-up maker, Supernature feels unfaithful to what talent Goldfrapp actually possesses. Even their few worthwhile moments here refer to other sources: “Let It Take U” exploits Goldfrapp’s sonic ties to Tricky and Massive Attack, while “Time Out From the World” could open any James Bond flick. These do little but chirp and die like canaries in a coal mine of an album.