The name should really be a sticking point. Usually we’d be screaming out for an ampersand here, 'it’s ‘Aluna & George’ surely? Fucksake'. But in this case it works well. Aluna&George aren’t a musical duo, they’re a genetically modified experiment, grown in the petri dish of pop. They’re siamese souls, trained from birth to think as one mind, probably by ninjas like in Batman Begins; their one goal in life to produce the most elegantly crafted, breezy, futuristic pop music possible. Two souls smushed together, and magically enhanced, greater than the sum of their parts: AlunaGeorge.
The pop-ninja scientists that raised the duo from birth knew where they were at. Preparing their genetic formula they took no chances- hardcoded into their DNA is the complete history of tasteful pop from Sade to James Blake, via All Saints, chip-tunes, Timbaland, early Sugababes, late Radiohead, TLC, G-funk, Neneh Cherry, Dirty Projectors, the XX, Hot Chip, Nineties trip hop, Noughties R&B (especially Aailiyah) and the more relaxed end of dubstep. Having birthed their baby monster-of-smoothe, all they had to do is wait for the right sunny day and unleash it on the world. That’s essentially what Body Music is: a genetically engineered soundtrack to the perfect teenage summer.
The real surprise is that such genetic-level Frankenstein-ing could possibly work - but it has. It really, really has. Body Music achieves all of its goals and then some. George Reid's backdrops are all about space, there's a beautiful minimalism and detail on show at every turn here, pneumatic electronic percussion supporting washes and warps. It's incredibly tastefully done, and Reid never over-eggs his pudding. There's a few tricks he is guilty of overusing, most notable of which is warped, pitch-shifted vocals as evidence on breakthrough single 'Your Drums' and showcased on pretty much every track here. It usually works very well, creating interesting textures that are both vocal hooks AND part of the percussive backing, but by the time you get to 'Lost and Found' towards the end of record, does start to grate a little.
Aside from Reid's skill as a producer and arranger, the immediate appeal comes from Aluna Francis, whose smooth, distinctive vocal is as much a part of the band's character as Reid's bloops and pitch play. Francis has a rare ability to be expressive without being showy. Ostensibly, if you had to pigeon hole it, this is an R&B record, but Francis doesn't sing it like one, she's substantially more understated than those two letter usually imply. There's a knack for brilliant hooks and fantastic imagery at work here, and any singer who can make the phrase "everything you exhale is attracting flies" into one of the best hooks on an album that is frankly stuffed with great hooks is certainly deserving of respect. She also knows not to pull her punches every time, “you’re a car crash waiting to happen," she sings on 'Bad Idea', "I’m putting on the breaks just to save myself”.
If we have to pick another hole, the inclusion of Montell Jordan's 'This Is How We Do It' as a bonus tracks is almost completely unnecessary. It's an interesting exercise in applying the tricks and ticks the duo have learned to their R&B inspirations, but the result is neither as soulful or compelling as Jordan's original, nor as sophisticated and engaging as the previous 12 tracks has been. It feels like a gimmick, and suffers especially for following album closer 'Friends To Lovers', which is the lyrical and emotional heart of the record.
As a genetic experiment the AlunaGeorge are a slightly creepy success story for which their science-ninja creators can be justifiably proud, we may as well give them a Nobel AND the Mercury Music Prize now and have done with it. As a a slice of accomplished, sophisticated urban pop you'll find none finer this summer.
8Marc Burrows's Score