Groove Armada - Black Light

2010-04-01 08:13
Black Light
Groove Armada were never the coolest of dance duos. Sure, there was that overwhelmingly successful dancefloor filler "I See You Baby (Shakin' that Ass)" but that had as much to do with the naughtiness in the title than the song itself. And prior to that they revelled in cod-reggae rhythms ("Superstylin'") and were considered the chillout experts back when lounge and barely-there beats were the in thing. Thank goodness those days are over.

So how do Groove Armada, British DJs and producers Andy Cato and Tom Findlay manage to keep going even as they wave goodbye to their heyday? As is the fortunate case here, it all comes down to some really good songs. From the unassuming album artwork to the less-than star-studded line-up of guest singers (just who the hell are Fenech-Soler, SaintSaviour, Nick Littlemore and Jessica Larrabee?) the Armada are paving their own way to the heart of electronic and dance music – and it's a fun, rather emotional ride. And stupid us for not knowing more about their guest vocalists, because in the company of the more accomplished Bryan Ferry and Will "Pop Idol" Young, they get the best songs to let rip.

"Cards to Your Heart" is hands down my favourite song on Black Light – I cannot stop listening to it. its evocative of New Order's moodier bits, but by way of Ziggy Stardust who's made a pitstop at Elton John's for a cup of tea. It's a thrilling, dubby bit of space pop that should be played at your next house party on repeat. It's really that good. But the album gets its rocks off in the opening track already. "Look Me in the Eye Sister" (with Larrabee on vocals) is a thumping, guitar-driven bit of euphoria that sounds like Pat Benatar re-imagined for a new generation of suicide girls.

There's just no pinning the overall sound of Black Light – that was never Groove Armada's style. "Just for Tonight" is a dreamy pop song (sung by Larrabee again) that's followed by a ball-busting giant of a tub-thumping dance tack called "Not Forgotten" that gives Littlemore a great opportunity to showcase his punky, arresting and unashamedly out-of tune wail. By the time Ferry and Young come around, the album's already thrown you around the room and they're there for the clean-up with the more sophisticated, chilled tracks.

Black Light is an irresistible jumble of contrary influences and jagged beats made smooth and deliciously palatable by Cato and Findlay's fine ear for melody. It'll be so easy for this album to pass you by. I have no idea whether it'll go on to have as much impact as Vertigo or Goodbye Country (Hello Nightclub) but all I can say with certainty is that Black Light transcends whatever those previous Armada albums have come to signify – it's simply the best work these guys have ever done.

The 80s are back, very back indeed, and don’t seem to want to go back to the day-glo closet they'd been banished to so long ago. It's a loud, proud, slightly skanky presence in fashion, art, pop music (Lady Gaga, Ke$ha, even Madonna still wished it was still the 80s) and dance music too has its finger on this hard-to-ignore pulse.

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