March, 22, 2010 (today), sees Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory back together as Goldfrapp, with a new album, and what a return to form it is; albeit for some its going to be a bit of an adventure into the uncharted territory of late 70’s early 80’s American light Pomp/AOR. As with Supernature, which nodded strongly to the Glam Rock of the early to mid 70’s, Goldfrapp’s new album takes a lot of influences from American bands such as Balance, Desmond Child and Rouge (in so much as they mixed disco with AOR), I-Ten, Trillion and mix’s it with Euro Disco, Electronica from the likes of Kraftwork, OMD, and the cheeky sensuality of their previous album Black Cherry. This heady mix results in Head First.
I must confess to taking a long time, trying to get into their last album Seventh Tree. It was not what I had been expecting, or hoping for, and the poor, highly compressed, muddy sound quality did not help me either. However I did eventually get what they were trying to do, but still in my opinion Seventh Tree is a weak album full of unfulfilled promise.
Head First on the other hand, I got on the first play (as I type). I love the melodic rock of the late 70’s and early 80’s, and especially the more creative slightly prog, pomp, melodic rock of the bands I mentioned earlier. These groups at the time were unafraid to mix elements of disco and electronic music, and Alison and Will have done the same within their own unique musical framework; with this album.
First track Rocket, is obviously Goldfrapp, but it could be American band Balance (just missing some of their guitar work), 80’s AOR/Pomp keyboards and synths propel the song at break neck speed. This is also the first track to be released as a single.
Track two Believer begins with a slightly Kraftwork flavoured into and rapidly propels its self into a fairly typical Goldfrapp song, similar in vibe to songs off the Black Cherry album; but lacking the sleezy erotica of that album, and lighter in feel. Like most of the album its an upbeat, lighters in the air track.
Alive charts a path that would not be a miss on a Laura Brannigan album…oh the retroness of it.
Dreaming is a nod back to the style of Felt Mountain, but with a Fleetwood Mac, circa Tango in the Night rhythm section, and OMD style keyboards. It sounds like it should not work but it does. Only Alison and Will could carry this off in such away, it should be a car crash, instead its a sleek modern homage to the pop music of the 1980s.
Next up is the title track Head First, which is a swirling mix of Allison’s sensual voice and a mix of Laura Brannigan and ABBA. As I type this I can but try and imagine the opening lines of the first conversation Will and Alison had about this project…… “How’s about we mix Abba with OMD, with Fleetwood Mac with…….” You get the picture. Who looked at who with incredulity or a stronger emotion is known only to the fly on the wall. Who said “That’s crazy” is again only known to that lucky fly on the wall. Well crazy or not it works, and I love it.
Hunt, is a more down-tempo chill out track that would not be a out of place on a Cafe Del Mar compilation album, but still it has a very distinct 80’s vibe to it.
Shiny and Warm sees Goldfrapp back in the same musical territory as on Super Nature, and it is for me the weaker track on this album. Its still good, but just feels a wee bit out of place among the other tracks.
I wanna Life starts with an AOR keyboard intro and soars into a similar vibe to first track Rocket, with very strong musical references to the likes of I-Ten, before taking a detour into the likes of Berlin and the Motels, before shooting out the other side into the sensuality of Felt Mountain and a fabulous keyboard synth passage that will have you playing air keyboarding as I was.
The last track Voice Thing starts with a Blade Runner-isque Jean Michelle Jarre` meets Laurie Anderson, meets Felt Mountain instrumental with Alison’s voice coming in and used as an instrument in multiple overlays…..haunting swirling stuff.
Then its all over.
This album is only 38 mins and 11 seconds long, and that is its only fault, it is just too short. It could however be argued that short and fantastic is better than long and padded out. Well this album is fantastic and not padded out in any way. I just hope we don’t have to wait too long till the next one, and where will it be going to look for musical inspiration? Only time will tell.
I am very pleased to report that the sound quality on this album is very good. Its open and detailed, and has none of the muddy compression of the previous album. Dynamics are also very good with minimal loudness compensation. All in all very good, if not quite as good as Felt Mountain and Black Cherry.
Alison and Will, and the other musicians (Alex Lee-Guitar, Charles Jones-Bass, Chris Colliston-Guitar, David Rossi-Violin and Ged Lynch-Drums) who took part on this recording…very well done indeed. You guys are back on form, and I love this new album.
Goldfrapp-Head First. CD, Mute Records 2010 (cdstumv320)
Source of Music reviewed……. Reviewer owned item
Sound Quality 8.5 out of 10
Music 8 out of 10
Moon Andromeda CD Player, Meridian G02 Balanced Pre-Amplifier, Music Reference RM200 Amplifier, Anthony Gallo Ref 3.1 Speakers. Signal Cabling Atlas Marvos xlr to xlr, and Atlas Marvos Speaker cable. Mains leads Audience AU24 and Analysis Plus Power Oval 2. Equipment Tables used Clearlight Audio Aspekt Rack and Mana Floor Amplifier platform.
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