At one time it was easy to fall for the charms of Goldfrapp: they had ideas, made a beautiful and haunting debut album, and have transformed themselves more times than Madonna in the space of ten years. This chameleonic nature has proved to be something of a mixed blessing for the duo, and this has never been so apparent as on this, their fifth album.
“Head First” is a journey into 80s power pop, Goldfrapp constantly trying to drag the genre into the 21st Century with the expected sultry vocals and a smattering of modern ideas. If nothing else, this album proves that they can still put together a catchy pop song: “Rocket” is repetitive but oddly alluring, the lyrics never quite developed, but then again, few good pop songs nowadays have a solid lyrical base. Just look at Lady Gaga: “pah-pah-pah Poker Face/ pah-pah- Poker Face”. Case closed. Goldfrapp have never quite gone down the route of meaningless drivel, therefore they’ve still managed to maintain their position as a higher class of pop band.
“Believer” is perhaps the better of the two singles so far, despite the fact that the intro reminds me of Sparks. It’s more sophisticated and adult, but still has that playful 80s feel that dominates this record. Things start to delve into the realms of cheese-pop with “Alive” (otherwise known as that song off the Sky Premiere advert) but somehow its sunny outlook and soaring chorus manage to keep this song afloat, despite the fact that it sounds like it’s from a completely different record than anything else on offer here.
But things stay in pretty much the same vein after that. A casual listen doesn’t throw up any particular standout track, aside from the unusual “Voicething” at the end of the record, which is just a series of stitched together vocals from charismatic frontwoman Alison Goldfrapp. Somehow it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter that this is a fluffy bubblegum record. It probably doesn’t matter because after a semi-dismal summer it has the power to make the listener raise a small smile. Perhaps that’s all the duo had in mind when they made this album: smiles.
Well, I’m not complaining. Admittedly it would have been nice if they’d thrown up another gem like “Black Cherry”, but seven years after that release I’m starting to lose a bit of hope that they’ll ever return to that wonderful electro-art corner. But that’s the thing with being a fan of chameleons: sometimes all they want to do is follow the crowd and ride the 80s wave.
Some of the prettiest album artwork this year though…