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Date March 12
Type Review
Source Times Online
Title Goldfrapp : Head First
Country UK
Journalist/Photographer Pete Paphides
Text The best moments on Goldfrapp's album Head First — Believer and the title track — also double as its uncoolest ones

This time last year every emerging female singer seemed to have assimilated elements of the Goldfrapp sound into her sonic armoury — from the glam-dram otherworldliness of Lady Gaga to Ladyhawke’s empowered electropop. If Alison Goldfrapp and her co-conspirator Will Gregory felt a beatific sense of oneness with the world as they went into this fifth album, the feeling seems to have been compounded by the singer’s blooming relationship with the film editor Lisa Gunning.

None of which would matter, were this new-found sense of inner harmony not so palpable on Head First. For a frontperson who has kept her audience at arm’s length for so long, the unguarded persona of these songs is a startling prospect. Asked about some of the influences behind some of the songs, Goldfrapp has said that the pared-back percussive pulse of Shiny and Warm was inspired by Cheree, the standout song from the eponymous album by the proto-electronic US punks Suicide.

For whatever reason, she has been less eager to draw our attention to the fact that daubed all over the duo’s current single Rocket are the same synths that Van Halen used for Jump, welded to a chorus that revels in the glee of its own smitten simplicity: “Oh-woah/ I’ve got a rocket/ Oh-woah/ You’re going on it.” These, in turn, are not to be confused with the keyboards on I Wanna Life, whose genesis won’t need pointing out to anyone who remembers the insistent hook of Laura Branigan’s 1983 Europop belter Gloria.

In fact, the best moments on Head First also double as its uncoolest ones. Believer and Head First suggest that, forced to undergo hypnosis and take us to her safe place, Goldfrapp would make for the Xanadu school disco in a fraction of a Mike Read breakfast show jingle. Alive is Billy Joel’s It’s Still Rock’n’Roll to Me marinaded in amyl nitrate and recast to lyrics that sound like a great lost Brutus jeans jingle.

On this sort of territory Head First is an easy record to live with. By comparison, more esoteric moments struggle to establish the required traction. On Voicething, a chorus of Goldfrapps converge and separate like seagulls at dusk to merely pleasant effect — while the splenetic sentiments of Hunt (“about someone who lies”, apparently) jar amid the surrounding songs.

It’s by no means their best album, then — that accolade may for ever belong to Felt Mountain in 2000. But on a sunny day with an unbroken stretch of road ahead of you and the desire to remember the gauzy, giggly languor of new love, this is the one you’ll reach for.

 
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