As an exercise in marketing, AlunaGeorge’s debut album ‘Body Music’ is a success. Never mind the fact that its title comes uncomfortably close to Ciara’s ‘Body Party’ or the fact that “sell out” –although a most unfashionable topic in these days of commodified counterculture – springs to mind immediately. Because, coincidence or not, the inverse parallel between the two acts are telling, exposing the London-based production duo of Aluna Francis and George Reid as part of a wave of contemporary artists seizing the cultural moment and not just dabbling, not even embracing, but bear-hugging the mainstream in the name of New Sincerity. What one must not forget in engaging with a particular trend is to be discerning and, regardless of whether or not a band emerged via the internet, or were picked up by a label as “edgy” as Tri Angle records, in being snapped up and spat out in a significantly mushier state by a label like Island, integrity is surrendered and, with it, that very “edge”.
Consider the album title again. ‘Body Music’ implies a certain sensuality that Francis’ dead-eyed vocal, fed through a suspiciously high-pitched channel, doesn’t do anything from the groin down. After all, there’s nothing smoky-sexy about infantilism and the smacked-out submissiveness of Kaleidoscope Love, with its limp rhythmic swagger and grotesquely irregular clapping samples, comes across as all the more creepy. Providing an uncomfortably disempowered rendition of what the press line calls “Alt-RnB” and playing analogy to the pop sterilisation procedure that AlunaGeorge have evidently undergone, album fillers like the monotonous “do-ba-doop” of Bad Idea and the unconvincing balladry of Diver seem like unnecessary additions filling out roughly 50 minutes of song material.
Previously released tracks like Your Drums, Your Love and Just A Touch still stand out for their wonky weirdness but it’s hard to shake a sense of indignation, on behalf of Mount Kimbie, as AlunaGeorge claim the frenetic sonic layering and playful vocal pitch-shifting as their own, a style which existed while Reid was still doing math rock. The latter fact in itself is telling, as said cerebral genre is known for being anything but instinctual, which points to Reid’s mimesis and explains the unmoving nature of his music production in general.
That said, there are still some bright moments, including new ones, Body Music and Lost & Found, the same goes for the fractious swing of Attracting Flies. But there’s no ignoring Francis’ penchant for lyrical clichés (“I hear you out/ hear me out/I hear you shout/ I'm now stepping out), while album opener Outlines sets up the low song-writing standard with a whopping four rhyming words in three lines (“sad”, “glad”, “had”, “bad”). It’s part of AlunaGeorge’s unfortunate habit for cheapening their product, be it the bonus Montell Jordan cover of hit 1995 track, This is How We Do It, or the eerily pitched-down vocals and reverse synths, lifted from Drag, even if those elements were part of what made them a fit for Tri Angle in the first place.
Everything considered, ‘Body Music’ is a fairly clear indication of the potentially shit-ifying effects of signing to a major label by a band without conviction. That very submission to mediocrity is clearest in the new video for the song that launched them, You Know You Like It (watch both versions below), as it migrates from a clear and simple grayscale video of Francis dancing along with several clones of herself, to a distressingly trashy display of AlunaGeorge weaving through an abandoned pool full of affected posers in Top Shop chic. It’s here that Francis sings, “I’m not a follower. I don’t take things as they come, if they bring me down” and I, for one, am struck by the irony.
Island released AlunaGeorge's debut album 'Body Music' on 29th July 2013.