Sex, subversion, style, humour, songs: great pop music's greatest components. And Goldfrapp have always known it.
Through pioneering electronics, crystalline vocals, visual theatrics and glam-sex decadence, they've moved through the ambient shadows into the technicolour thrill that is the hallmark of classic British pop music. After 'Felt Mountain' (2000), their glacial, ... Read more in Amazon's Goldfrapp Store
When I first heard the single "Rocket" I was horrified. It was played one afternoon while I was at work. "Rocket" came on the radio and I immediately accused a colleague of changing the channel from 6Music to Radio2. As I listened further I began to recognise the voice but didn't want to believe that it was actually Goldfrapp. My mind filled with images of Van Halen's "Jump", Starship and other equally big-haired US west-coast MOR acts who blighted my formative years.
Investigating further I discovered that the whole album was a trip back to many different sounds from the 80s and suddenly "Rocket" was in context and my previous shortsightedness melted away. Even though it happens to me every time they release a new album I had fallen into the same old trap which seems to define my relationship with the music of Goldfrapp. I realise this is part of their appeal and I do know they change their sound every album but I seemingly just need to be wrong-footed every time in order to appreciate it.
Any personal prejudice I may have about (some of) that 80's sound is totally irrelevant because Goldfrapp make it their own. I can almost understand why some may initially dismiss this album as lightweight or lazy but remember this is Goldfrapp and they just don't do lazy. I think the confusion arises because they manage to make it all sound so effortless which, somewhat ironically, actually takes a lot of hard work and talent to achieve. Listen again and listen with an open mind. The tracks on "Head First" may be fizzy 80's pop on the surface but they are also typically warm and lush and slightly unusual in that singular and distinctive way that Goldfrapp do so well. Apart from the obvious musical similarities like Abba and Olivia Newton-John I also hear Depeche Mode, Laurie Anderson, OMD, Japan and other acts that I loved.....
....and there you have it.....
Another wildly eclectic album from Goldfrapp which stretches my mind-music-muscle into new exciting shapes and takes me places I never thought I wanted to go, whereupon I find it's actually somewhere pretty wonderful.Read more ›
So why would this bloke buy vinyl in this digital age. The most obvious reason is you can appreciate the cover artwork more and you get a nice Goldfrapp poster in a beautifully produced sleeve. The album itself is 180g vinyl so there's none of that vintage snap, crackle and pop. However, my main reason for buying `Head First' on vinyl was the disappointing sound quality on `Supernature'. For me Supernature had excellent songs spoilt by overdriven sound levels leading to compressed dynamic range that gave this album a harsh, tiring sound. For example the violins of the sumptuous `Time out from the World' sound harsh and gritty when they should have been honey smooth. On taking off my music anorak I need not have worried. The sound quality of both vinyl and CD versions of Head First is as excellent as all the `Frappers other albums. The vinyl version sounds more lush and smooth with wonderful spacious mid-range while the CD is clean, fast and punchy. Alison's voice sounds wonderfully seductive regardless. On first listen to Head First with my audiophile anorak off I found I still had my `music snob' hat on. Finding, as some other reviewers did, songs that sounded uncharacteristically derivative and predictable. All those seventies and eighties references where there with the first three tracks sounding like `Blondie joins Human League' while the title track wouldn't sound out of place on an Abba album. However, on repeated listening the penny starts to drop as you realise they are being unpredictable, I for one didn't think they would follow the lyrical, almost folky `Seventh Tree' with eighties infected dance floor fillers! Other reviews have already described individual tracks so I won't, suffice to that if you want more substance then listen to `Dreaming' and the brilliant `Hunt' and `Shiny and Warm' and to round off for `Frapp purists, there's the ingeniously quirky `Voicething'. So overall, yes there are nods to the seventies and eighties but done with such brilliance it really doesn't matter. This is a seriously feel good album - and what can be wrong with that? I play and enjoy listening to every track without skipping any, so that meets my criteria for 5 stars. CD or LP, just buy it - you won't be disappointed!Read more ›
I'm really beginning to think of Goldfrapp as a latterday David Bowie with the same chameleon-like qualities for reinventing themselves every album or so, due to either Will reprogramming his synths or Alison tiring of her current wardrobe. Like Bowie, Goldfrapp are proving themselves to be very adept at taking a particular musical genre and sprinkling it with stardust to produce the genre in their own inimitable style.
This time up Goldfrapp are reinterpreting the eighties and in particular the sound of Euro-pop legends, Abba. But, you can also detect references to Kraftwerk, Laurie Anderson, Vangelis and Giorgio Moroder. The opener, 'Rocket', is a perfect example of the new sound. A great chorus, 'I've got a rocket and you're going on it', backed up with a lush, synth riff. The lyrics possibly refer to the inner thoughts of a jealous woman scorned in a love triangle. The title track, 'Head First' reminds me of `Chiquitita' with it's characteristic Abba, bouncy-piano melody. 'Alive' and 'Believer' are great takes on the swirly synth riffs characterized by Giorgio Moroder.
Goldfrapp stated in an interview recently that they wrote these new songs very quickly and without too much thought of aiming for a particular sound. But, Alison did admit to listening to some late Abba albums including 'Visitors' and listening to this you can detect a similarity between the two albums. (Given that we have only just got over Mamma Mia, surely it isn't time yet for *another* Abba revival!)
Anyway, this album is simply the sound of Goldfrapp having fun and the tracks I've mentioned are very enjoyable and should see Goldfrapp sitting in the charts all summer. But, after these first few good songs the rest of the album quickly fizzles out. I really hope that Goldfrapp didn't have to rush this album out due to record label pressure. There is talk of a Greatest Hits album to be released later this year, so it could be they had to complete this album in advance of this release. If that it true, then it is a great shame as I feel this album could have been so much better.
To those Goldfrapp fans who are unhappy with this album you could console yourself with the thought that perhaps Head First is Goldfrapp's, Rattle&Hum. This was the hugely disappointing album released by U2 after their classic Joshua Tree album. Like Head First, Rattle&Hum was a homage album (to American R&B music) and at the time widely criticised for being self-indulgent, uninspired and in fact, lazy. Stung by this criticism and knowing that they were at risk of becoming marginalised, U2 spent the next three years reinventing themselves and their sound. The result? Achtung Baby - which many consider to be their finest album. So, if you are disappointed with Head First, start looking forward to Goldfrapp's new album in 2013. It could be their best!Read more ›