Goldfrapp - Head First

by Deany Sevigny Rating:7 Release Date:2010-03-22

It must be hard, balancing on that pedestal, Goldfrapp. Ever since you blew us away with 2000's Felt Mountain you've been expected to wield the mallet that shatters epochs at every turn. You've proven you can tell fairytales and fill dance floors, thanks to the amazing Black Cherry and its successor Supernature. Never afraid to veer from what's popular, you managed to provide a beautifully ethereal soundscape with 2008's Seventh Tree, a psychedelic chill-out force to be reckoned with - which was inexplicably affected by low sales figures and scepticism. Now, in a world affected by 80s revivalism and Lady bloody GaGa, you're being accused of either following a herd or losing your touch. What gives?

Two years ago or so, saying that trying one's hand at this 80s revivalist malarkey couldn't exactly be described as 'middle of the road', but now that's precisely what can be said about Goldfrapp's latest effort, Head First. They seem to have foregone any actual sense of direction and settled for just making good pop music. Simple as. Like in FeltMountain, Alison flies the flags of her influences proudly and openly, this time sporting the likes of Olivia Newton-John and Kylie Minogue. Opener and first single 'Rocket' is a homage to Newton-John's 'Physical' meets Van Halen's 'Jump' with one of the catchiest choruses of a Goldfrapp song to date, all about revenge on the git that broke your heart with some brazen hussy. You know the one...

'Alive' tries its hardest to be an upliftingly epic floor filler and falls just short of flat on its face, somehow. It sounds like it should be on a compilation of the 80s CD full of B-sides you've never heard of, though not entirely without merit. The sweeping chorus is initially breath-taking, at the very least. The Minogue-alike 'Dreaming' is a rather beautifully dark club-dance track that I guarantee will be remixed and re-edited and rejigged, ready for summer and the party animals it brings with it. As decadent as the early Scissor Sisters, it'd fit comfortably on the Party Monster soundtrack.

The album's title track sounds a little too much like a marriage between Abba and Electric Light Orchestra for its own damned good. Very turn-of-the-80s still steeped in 70s glam, and rather infuriatingly so. 'Shiny And Warm' almost feels like 'Ooh La La's enthusiastic younger brother; blatantly inspired by Mark Bolan and his glam powerhouse, it's a sultry, sexy, and very likeable dance number with a driving synth bassline and more than a vague whiff of Black Cherry about it. The album is brought to a close by the strangely uplifting 'Voicething' (probably a name they gave it while trying to think of an actual name for it, and it just stuck), an experiment in using the vocal chords as an instrument themselves - but it's on the wrong damned album! It reeks of FeltMountain, with its ethereal Enya-esque and dreamlike quality.

All in all, Head First isn't remotely close to breaking any new ground, but it's a worthy edition to their repertoire. At nine unashamedly poppy tracks, it's an undemanding listen, begging to be played on a Saturday night while you're getting ready to hit the town. Nay-sayers, step back; with songwriting this astute and a back catalogue so profound why should the need to carry on proving themselves again and again overshadow their ability to just give us something to listen to and enjoy?

Dean Birkett

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