Not since the late ’90s, when the likes of The Chemical Brothers and Fatboy Slim were dominating charts, festivals and school runs, has electronic dance music been such a big deal in the UK. Exhibit one: brotherly duo Disclosure and pop quartet Rudimental landing Number One albums alongside standard chart pap like Emeli Sandé. Exhibit two: Glaswegian producer Hudson Mohawke popping up on Kanye West albums. Verdict: It’s a good time to be young, talented, British, and making your own beats.
Enter AlunaGeorge, a London duo formed four years ago when George Reid, guitarist in math-rock band Colour, met My Toys Like Me singer Aluna Francis on Myspace and the pair decided to fuse his love of The Neptunes with her radio-friendly vocals. George makes all the beats and Aluna does all the singing. She, in particular, is in demand, and has featured on Disclosure’s club-dominating single ‘White Noise’ as well as popping up during Dizzee Rascal’s Pyramid Stage slot at Glastonbury this year. They should, really, have it made.
Unfortunately, the duo’s debut album only occasionally lives up to the promise. George works it on ‘Just A Touch’, where handclaps and a twisted synth line build into a beat your shoulders can pop to. The hook is enormous, and complemented by Aluna singing “It’s just a touch” in high, syrupy tones. On ‘Diver’, her voice is manipulated to match the song’s stuttery drum shuffle, the beat winding up and down like a body ripple. ‘Lost & Found’ has drops and bassy growls that channel the aforementioned Hudson Mohawke’s bounciest moments.
Almost all of the tracks on ‘Body Music’ have a decent tune, but they often lack bite. ‘Kaleidoscope Love’ clicks and tinkles when it should soar. ‘Superstar’ starts bolshily but doesn’t go anywhere, and the chorus, “He’s a superstar in his home”, seems painfully appropriate. Reid may well boss it alone in his bedroom, but he’s not doing so here. ‘Bad Idea’ and early single ‘Your Drums, Your Love’ should be powerful disses to unsuitable lovers, but they’re too lightweight. On ‘Attracting Flies’, when the synths actually are punchy, Aluna spoils the party by singing “Everything you exhale is attracting flies”, conjuring up the image of a man breathing faeces.
But really, the fundamental flaws on ‘Body Music’ are down to Reid. He’s said in a previous interview that he doesn’t want to make music in which “noises might be carrying the song”, but he’s held himself back way too much here. Not only do his noises fail to carry the songs, he often loses the songs altogether. They drift away from him when he should be dominating them. And this album is a missed opportunity.