Felt Mountain has earned legendary status in the music industry through critical reception alone, but in fan circles it’s as well known for its melodic assault on luscious soundscapes. The whistle and synthesised hum of “Lovely Head” in particular has filtered through into every day life, used on the soundtrack for everything between Monkey Dust and My Summer of Love. Whether consciously or not, you know it. Likewise fellow singles “Pilots (On a Star)”, “Human” and “Utopia” have accrued enough time on national radio to be considered presenters in their own right. The debut founded Goldfrapp’s long and trustworthy career... But it’s not for me. I don’t appreciate it. In fact I find it boring.
Here’s why: I grew up in adoration of the honk, tonk, stonking Alison Goldfrapp that slammed her boots into the pavement and declared war on sensuality. She was the front woman who draped herself in wolves on live TV and thought bass her saviour. I found Felt Mountain when I was forced backward by Supernature. I was looking for the quake of Black Cherry but instead I found a simmering debut that asserts its front woman is just another instrument. With admirable talent, Alison is nevertheless inconsequential to this record: her vocals are an additional layer and not the pinnacle of all things good and holy.
I imagine most people find this endearing. They probably like Felt Mountain because it does something other records of the time do not. Notes are interlinked. Not only does everything work well together, it works in harmony. When this album plays there’s a tangible, real link between eardrum and stereo.
On the reverse, there’s nothing to grab hold of, bite into and ride until the sunset rears its head for the third time. It lacks flare because it’s deliberately the opposite: a chilled out, laid back, flirtatious journey into nothingness. You’re never going to get a shag out of it, but you might get a coy giggle. It’s whimsical. Blurgh.
Undoubtedly when 2000 turned to 2002, existing Goldfrapp fans cocked their heels and spun in the opposite direction, away from the pouting din of Black Cherry and back into the synthetic, rural sanctuary of Felt Mountain. Whatever way you look at it, it’s near impossible to be a fan of Goldfrapp throughout the ages: they’ve simply changed too much. And this is the side of their career that I have no time for.