Album Review :: Groove Armada – Black Light

The electronic and synthpop duo return to stellar form with their 2010 release, snagging some big names and attentions along the way. On general sale now.

Groove Armada

Groove Armada - Black Light © Groove Armada/Cooking Vinyl

With their latest album, Black Light, the London based electronic duo Groove Armada release their first full album since 2007. Comprising of a blend of smooth, synthesised electronica, house numbers and more lavishly sounding synthpop numbers that would make even the hardest 80s keytar playing, new romantics weep. Coupled with a strong supporting cast on this new release, Groove Armada’s Andy Cato and Tom Findlay are joined by the likes of Bryan Ferry, Jess Larrabee and even pop’s ugly, misunderstood big brother Will Young who actually sounds like a singer, no mean feat for the producers.

The sixth full studio album, not counting 2007’s release of limited tracks entitled GA10: 10 Year Story, Groove Armada take their loyal fan base and new listeners back to a more sleek, electronic sounding era based very firmly in the 80s. The dynamic feeling of the album pays more than a large homage to the electronic, new wave bands of the decade, most notably New Order, Gary Numan, David Bowie and of course Roxy Music who’s pioneering and sometimes controversial recording techniques and methodology behind their lyricism lend a wonderfully trans-generational quality to the album. Although primarily a synthpop-based album, it is easy to merely brand Black Light as little more than a retro foray into a misty eyed era long since gone. However, with their dynamic blend of musical talent, lyrics and collaboration with other exquisite artists, Groove Armada deliver a hauntingly eerie album that can wrestle with the giants of the genre from almost three decades ago.

Black Light kicks off with the more conventional sounding “Look me in the Eye Sister” an excellent sounding, harder edged synth rock number. Upon first hearing the pulsing guitar riffs and thundering drums combined with the droning keyboards, the listener is immediately transported back to a world the majority of the band’s fan base will not remember or indeed were not even born in. Spiralling into a tangled forest of enhanced snare drums and screeching keyboards, effects and all, “Look me in the Eye Sister” smacks of the very essence that made bands like Flock of Seagulls and Visage so very popular. This atmosphere is replicated with follow ups “Fall Silent” and “Not Forgotten”, both tracks featuring the eerily creepy musings of Andy Cato on keyboard reflect his love for the synthpop era and his traditional roots in Jazz and bass.

Progressing the album into more familiar ground, the later tracks “Shameless” and “History” see the group unite with very different vocal artists, Bryan Ferry and Will Young respectively. Ferry lends his seemingly unlimited and ageless vocals to “Shameless” a smooth sounding electronica number that once again harkens back to Ferry’s glory days of the early 1980s. The echoing resonance of the distant guitars reflects this throwback to his golden era, Groove Armada obvious fans and here providing a perfect medium and tribute to the quintessential style icon and his unfathomably cool persona.

Similarly, “History” sheds a new light on the unfathomably popular Will Young. The TV talent show winner has been less than the most widely accepted artist amongst more acquired music tastes. Thus when first approached about the prospect of his high pitched warbling appearing with more credible musicians, fans and music aficionados were less than initially enamoured. The product, contrary to popular belief, is actually a massive improvement on his career and arguably one of the many high points of the album as a whole. Having spent the previous few years in relative mediocrity, it would appear that Young has in fact been working hard on his vocal range that is more than displayed here on this track. Once again combined with a keyboard and bass much like a pounding heartbeat, “History” is a wonderful track that has striking similarities to the other 80s great “Smalltown Boy” by Bronksi Beat, not a small feat and will hopefully be just as popular. Young’s spirited performance on “Friday Night with Jonathan Ross” no doubt opened a lot of skeptics eyes and more importantly ears and it will be interesting to see where his career progresses from here.

In all, Black Light is a wonderful return to form for Groove Armada who continue to produce high quality, excellently produced and often quite thought provoking work. With their experimental electro and synth pop sound, Groove Armada will continue to impress their substantial fan base. However, with the growing trend for retroactive and throwback nostalgia continuing to dominate popular culture, the return of the hit 80s set BBC police drama Ashes to Ashes provides a great base from which to launch this latest album much akin to the success achieved by La Roux a year ago with “In for the Kill” and her self titled debut album. Therefore could it be too far a stretch of the imagination to envision the rapidly approaching summer to be dominated by florescent leg warmers, shoulder pads and large, floppy hair. Looking down the high streets, it would appear those days have never expired.

Jonathan Whitelaw

Check out Groove Armada’s official website for details on availability of the album:

16 Responses to “Album Review :: Groove Armada – Black Light”

  1. kath burns says:

    Will Young has always had a a great vocal range, just because you have never witnessed it before does not make it a fact. Having seen many of his live shows i can tell you what a fabulous live singer he is, open your narrow mind and give the man some credit. I imagine your exposure to Will Young is limited therefore i don’t believe you are able to judge him on a few tv appearances. History is a brilliant track enhanced greatly by Will Youungs vocals, it is the most popular track on the album. Will Young is working with Groove Armada amonsgt others on his new album, so should be great!

    • tom says:

      *in the style of Family Fortunes*: you said “open your narrow mind and give the man [Young] some credit.”. The reviewer said:

      “a massive improvement on his career and arguably one of the many high points of the album as a whole”

      “it would appear that Young has in fact been working hard on his vocal range that is more than displayed here on this track”

      “Young’s spirited performance on “Friday Night with Jonathan Ross” no doubt opened a lot of skeptics eyes and more importantly ears and it will be interesting to see where his career progresses from here”

  2. Jake says:

    Oh dear Mr Whitlaw! You clearly dislike Will Young alot but do us a favour and look up a few facts about him before you regale us with your opinions. As it says in the title “Like a Cheap Hooker giving alot with (for) very little!”

  3. sam says:

    aha why is he getting slated for not liking will young? silly silly people x x

  4. Mary M says:

    Jonathan Whitlaw, please do your research about Will, before you open your mind and write about him.
    You cannot judge Will on one record and live performance History on Jonathan Ross, which by the way, Will was fabulous singing on the show.
    Will always sings live and never mimes, ever.
    I have been to many of Will’s live shows and he is fantastic.
    Also Will is not ugly as you say in your report, I have met well several times in the flesh and he is as gorgeous in real life as on telly and magazines, more gorgeous in real life.
    Will is a beautiful, generous, kind human being, which is more than I can say for you………….

  5. Jo says:

    Talk about damning with faint praise!
    Will Young is an amazing singer who has had almost nine very successful years in a very fickle industry. If you’d ever been to see him live you would know that he’s a brilliant performer and an amazing singer and actually no, he doesn’t need ‘producers’ to make him sound good either. You’d also know he’s not ugly, by any stretch, and to say so is laughable. You’re a music reviewer not a pre-pubescent kid trading personal insults, so stop acting like one!

  6. Anonymous says:

    I find it laughable and embarrassing that when some one main stream has a few pointed comments made about them that aren’t of the usual highest praise the reaction it evokes is as if someones defiled your mother. As the reviewer said, if you actually read the article, his appearance on the track is “one of the many high points of the album as a whole”. As for defending his looks this merely implies that his appearance is probably half the reason you are a “fan” of his music.

  7. Anonymous says:

    If he is so good why did it take a tv show to make him successful. You are all reacting like some one has cummed in your gub, get a life.

  8. Gill says:

    A am glad you liked History – albeit perhaps reluctantly. However I think your quote ” unfathomably popular Will Young.” says it all about your real feelings. You obviously haven’t twigged yet (and probably never will) why a lot of the general public – have supported Will’s emerging career for the last eight years – and highly regarded professional musicians have themselves quoted on numerous websites and blogs to admiring Will as a rare and gifted musician and brilliant live performer.

    And as regards the last reply comment “why did it take a tv show to make his successful” how many times have I heard that narrow minded comment. To me if you can learn different songs, sing in completely diverse music styles, learn new arrangements and then perform them in front of a live audience with no previous experience, and then be prepared to be critised in front of a live panel of judges, it must say a lot about your strength of character.

    I personally have been introduced to a lot of new artists that I would otherwise never have known about, or expected to know about, had Will not entered the business. His love of all sorts of music and working with lots of different musicians has broaden my musical appreciation – but then I am prepared to listen to anything and give anyone a chance and a fair hearing.

  9. Well…you’ve certainly got people talking Jonathan haha

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