Thursday, April 20, 2006


This is sure to sound better in the variegated sweep of a good DJ mix

I really didn't care for Supernature at first. I didn't hate it, but when I first listened to it, I wasn't in a state of mind to enjoy it. Instead, I listened to it when it came out in March with my finger hovering over the forward button. I made it through the CD one time then put it aside, saying "Meh ... pop music." This happens to me from time to time -a CD just leaves me cold until the right context or the right mood comes along and something about the music clicks.

For Supernature, this happened when I listened to it in my car.

I first heard the single "Oo La La" on the radio while on vacation in Ireland this fall. I had ended up in the passenger seat for most of a driving trip around the island and the radio was my only comfort as I traveled along Ireland's tiny winding roads with quaint stone walls less than a meter from the passenger door. Something about the delirious, erotic thrum of that track soothed me as I thought about how a telephone poll knocked clear the passenger side mirror on our first day. It wasn't that remarkable to hear Goldfrapp on the radio - the CD was charting high in Europe and Ireland's equivalent of top 40 was hipper than anything stateside, with ads for LCD Sound-system's latest and the Magic Numbers playing during the daily lotto numbers. So, initially, the hallucinatory incantation of "Oo La La" became a palliative for trying to navigate the unmarked winding country roads in Ireland. (Note: Nascar will never take off in Ireland; driving at perilous speeds inches from a wall is a routine commute in the Emerald Isle).

Then, a few weeks ago, I was trying to visit a friend for a belated birthday in Fairfax county, just inside the Washington DC beltway. It was around 6:30 pm on a Saturday, so of course, traffic was at a standstill on Interstate 95. (For those who don't know, the D.C. area has the second worse traffic in the country; L.A. is number one.) I don't know what was playing on my digi-music-thingy at the time that I came to a complete stop on the highway, but it wasn't soothing me. So, I fiddled with the tracks, until I dialed up Supernature. I don't know why I picked that CD; I just needed something different. The Norman Greenbaum groove of "Oo La La" kicked in and I began to relax as my car inched forward. Around half way through the CD, I had the clarity to start looking for an exit. Driving along the surface roads, stopping at every other traffic light, my hands were no longer tapping out a tense tattoo on steering wheel. I was gently slapping the wheel in time to the snare on "Slide In". By the time the final track "Number One" came around, the glow from the brake lights and strip malls had been transformed into a sultry outdoor nightclub as Allison Goldfrapp cooed "You're my Saturday". I still had another twenty minutes to go, so I started the CD again and listened until I arrived at my friend's house. I almost didn't want to leave the car, except that a much needed drink awaited me inside.

So, you may be thinking that I have a thunderous car sound-system. I don't. I have a stock Honda stereo and listen to my MP3s using a cassette adapter that rattles as it plays. There is just something about Allison Goldfrapp's voice and the pulsating beats of this record that soothes me when I drive. Even the next morning when I drove home on the empty beltway, that record just made the sun a little brighter.

I seldom listen to Supernature at work. I never listen to it at home. However, I'm convinced that if "Number One" were playing on radios across this nation, motorists would be more courteous, changing lanes for merging traffic and slowing down for construction, just so they can arive safely to plant a smooch on that someone special at home. The sudden drop in tempo and rise in tenderness of "Let It Take You" would drop pulse rates even as commuters sit in a sea of stopped cars. Even the campy lyrics of "Ride A White Horse" would silence siblings battling in back seats. Supernature should be in every car along with flares and a can of Instant Spare.

In the house, this CD is a middling 6.0. In the car, I give it at least an 8.0. Perhaps PFM's 7.0 averages these two. It's just a matter of the right music in the right context.