Andy Cato and Tom Findlay's Black Light, their sixth studio long player, is the duo at their most consistent and gratifying, albeit in pop mode to such a degree that they risk alienating early followers. Collaborating with leftfield starlets such as Ms Dynamite and Roisin Murphy (Cato) or venturing into nü-disco territories like Sugardaddy (Findlay) seems to have left its mark on the duo, whose newly refined pop sensibility shines on album opener "Look Me in the Eyes Sister." Featuring Jess Larrabee, a female singer that has the kind of deep moaning reminiscent of Siouxie Sioux, the song was obviously recorded with the headline slot at outdoor festivals in mind. It's immediately rousing, thanks to the help of a hugely strident chorus and descending guitars, but the attention given to detail in the background is also heavily indebted to the kind of stadium synth-pop Depeche Mode perfected on Songs of Faith and Devotion.
The same trick is pulled on "Time & Space," this time with added pathos courtesy of newcomer chanteuse SaintSavior. It comes across as an updated version of Stevie Nicks for the post-E generation. She particularly shines on "I Won't Kneel" as warm synth pads buzz and twirl around her. The recruiting of Nick Littlemore, singer for Aussie neo-psychedelic revivalists Empire of the Sun, furthermore fits that lite '70s FM mood, while "Warsaw," with its harsher bassline, out-of-space bleeps and angular guitar track, is an obvious homage to early Gary Numan. That said, there are also traces of Cut Copy or MGMT on songs like "Fall Silent," "Not Forgotten" and current single "Paper Romance" that show Cato and Findlay are still au fait with contemporary electro-tinged trends.
This impressive telescoping of old influences and current backdrops is perfectly displayed on "Shameless" which showcases dandy extraordinaire Bryan Ferry whose so-called suaveness graces every second of the song. From the sampled French film excerpts to Ferry's gentlemanly but predictable crooning about reading lips and reading minds, it's cliché-ridden, but the terribly simple yet delicately pulsating synth lines fit the song's analog mood and the vocal delivery to perfection.
If you took the title Black Light at face value, you might think that this album would be filled with contradictions, clashing styles and conflicting aesthetics. That couldn't be further from the truth. Cato and Findlay have perfected their art by focusing on tighter songwriting and warmer, fuzzier production. Early fans might not recognize what defined the Groove Armada sound in the first place anymore, but there is still plenty of stylish ass-shaking to be had on here.