Fifty Shades of Gold
By Paul Flynn
Gregory is publicity-mute (he makes Pet Shop Boys’ Chris Lowe look like a Kardashian), so it is Goldfrapp’s job to promote the album, something she has surprised herself by enjoying this time around. Tales of Us falls somewhere in line with the pair’s 2000 debut, Felt Mountain, and 2008’s deeply personal, pagan-inspired Seventh Tree. Between these soft-focus, acoustic outings the band has teetered on the brink of commercial success with albums of digital glam-rock (Supernature, Black Cherry) and sleekly art-directed perversity. Lady Gaga owes Goldfrapp some conceptual royalty checks, and there has never been a more presciently 50 Shades of Grey chorus written than “I’m in love with a strict machine,” though Goldfrapp is sanguine when asked if the director of the book’s forthcoming film adaptation, Sam Taylor-Wood — who benefited from an instrumental score from Goldfrapp for the soundtrack to her first film, Nowhere Boy — will be calling on them again. “No,” she says. “It’s mega, her doing [50 Shades], though. She’s quite an incredible woman. She can take on anything.”
Nowhere Boy was edited by Goldfrapp’s partner, filmmaker Lisa Gunning, who also directed five beautiful shorts on a next-to-nothing budget to accompany the key tracks from Tales of Us. “It’s always a slight worry working with your partner,” Goldfrapp says. “You’re never quite sure whether that’s the right thing to do or not — it could be a bloody disaster. But it’s been fantastic.”
Tension arose only after Goldfrapp forgot to bring a key prop to the set while filming the first clip, for the murderous ode “Jo.” The crew had decamped to a forest in Essex on the outskirts of London to capture the mood, and Gunning had purchased an ax online that Goldfrapp had been temporarily stowing in her car. “I really hated the ax being in the car,” she says. “I thought, I cannot have this anymore. Something weird’s going to happen. Someone’s child will get in and knock their leg against it and that’ll be the end of their leg. So I took it out of the car and put it at the back of our shed. Of course when we came to do the video, we got there and Lisa said, ‘Can you get the ax?’ I suddenly had this ‘Oh my god, where’s the fucking ax?’ ” moment. I had to ring a taxi company and say, ‘Can you go up to my shed, get an ax I’ve left behind there, put it in a car, and bring it to these woods in the middle of the night?’ It doesn’t sound good, does it?” Considering the source, it couldn’t sound more perfect.