GROOVE ARMADA Black Light
1 Look Me In The Eye Sister 4:06 (UK single AA-side, did not chart)
2 Fall Silent 4:32
3 Just For Tonight 4:05 (UK single AA-side, did not chart)
4 Not Forgotten 5:33
5 I Won’t Kneel 4:35 (UK single, #190)
6 Cards To Your Heart 5:33
7 Paper Romance 6:18 (UK single, #196)
8 Warsaw 4:03
9 Shameless 4:47
10 Time & Space 4:52
11 History 4:12 (UK single, #117)
To call Groove Armada chart regulars might be slightly stretching it, but the stats nevertheless show that between 1998 and 2007 they notched up ten Top 40 singles in the UK. Given such a pedigree, the release of what could arguably be called their finest studio set to date in 2010 really ought to have guaranteed some degree of success.
Now, changes to the make-up and nature of the UK Chart might have had something to do with it, but the failure of all Black Light’s official single releases to even crack the Top 100 is incredible. Maybe it was too contemporary for its own good. 2010 was the era of Ladyhawke, MGMT and that “80s Reimagined” style, where acts barely even born during that decade were tapping into the spirit and sounds, fashioning electronic pop which made me feel nostalgic in a futuristic way. Or something.
Black Light is a truly epic album….in length, in scope, and in its ability to slip in euphoric key changes or synth breaks when you least expect it. Take “Cards To Your Heart”, an initially unpromising EDM shouter that, from nowhere, takes a turn into the most glorious, hairs-on-the-neck stadium dance anthem when the keyboards kick in.
The best way I can describe it when Groove Armada hit the bullseye, which is on almost every track, is the evocation of an Eighties Pop that never actually existed. This is really hard to articulate! It’s like the best remembered micro-bits of all your favourite music, put into a blender and then turned into a brand-new, original piece of music in the 21st Century. As I said, I’m struggling to make sense now…
So anyway, there are nods to clubland on Just For Tonight and Warsaw. I Won’t Kneel is Texas via Prince on the Sign O The Times album. History even sneaks in a heavily-treated Will Young vocal (this was the moment I really changed my mind about him), and Shameless drags Bryan Ferry into the modern world without sacrificing his trademark desolate, windswept class. Look Me In The Eye Sister is a monster of an opening song, taking a while to develop (a common theme among many tracks) but once it’s got hold of that riff, it isn’t letting go.
There are no fillers, nothing even close. Yet it barely scraped into the UK Top 30, and yielded no hits of any description (dominating my personal charts in the final year of their existence doesn’t count, sadly). Perhaps wounded by this reaction, GA went back into the studio and later in 2010 issued a companion set, “White Light”.
1 Warsaw 5:46
2 Time And Space 5:13
3 History 5:38
4 Not Forgotten 4:54
5 I Won’t Kneel 4:59
6 Look Me In The Eye Sister 5:31
7 Paper Romance 6:58
8 1980 4:09
9 History (Love Mix) 3:42
The idea was to be a counterpoint to the original album’s darker, more expansive direction (which had presumably alienated some of the more dance-oriented fans and followers). So, a selection of the same songs were reworked, edited and/or given a bit of a turbo boost towards the dancefloor. A new track, 1980, was also included, sounding more like Ladyhawke than Ladyhawke herself was by that stage.
Overall, it does what it was intended to do. There’s no substitute for the Black Light versions of I Won’t Kneel and Look Me In The Eye Sister, but the new Warsaw has extra zip while Paper Romance now sounds even more like the smash it ought to have been.
Two versions of History was a bit unnecessary, though.