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Date March 22
Type Review
Source The Washington Post
Title Shiny and Warm: Goldfrapp, 'Head First'
Country USA
Journalist/Photographer Roxana Hadadi
Text IF GOLDFRAPP'S LATEST ALBUM, "Head First," had parents, the likely culprits would probably be the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' 2009 album "It's Blitz!" and the soundtrack to "Saturday Night Fever."

Somehow, Karen O. and the Bee Gees bred creatively, and Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory got all the knowledge. Those lucky kids.

But even if this make-believe tale of faux parental units is just that, the influences of disco and electropop on "Head First" are hard to deny.

Goldfrapp's fifth album comes two years after their acoustic-inspired "Seventh Tree," and though some songs on this album are slower and similar to that previous release, more here is euphoric and thrilling, lyrics full of first-love longing and with optimistic, synth-heavy instrumentation to match. Over the course of the album, Alison Goldfrapp's lyrics deal with finding that guy, losing that guy, getting that guy back and then realizing maybe he wasn't that perfect anyway, a sequence of events that leave her pondering whether "damaged goods can be refunded" and if "too much, too little, too late" can ever be enough.

She's conflicted, yes. But what girl isn't?



The album starts off with "Rocket," its first single and punchiest track. With jazzy bursts of synths pulsing around Alison Goldfrapp, she croons, "Started something, couldn't go on / Danger, heartache, I always knew / There's no winner / In this game, you lose," an admission of guilt that still doesn't give her any insight as to how some other girl "got in the door / Uninvited." Instead, Goldfrapp wishes she and her lover could just ditch that other broad, board a rocket and end up "never coming back," a chorus that is surrounded by appropriately soaring instrumentation and a few futuristic-sounding trills and laser noises for good measure. Imagine Alison Goldfrapp in some space-inspired, Gozer-like outfit, and you'll get the idea even though the song's last note, a sound effect of a rocket lifting off, is a little hokey.

No matter, though, as the duo reclaims a sense of ease with its next track, "Believer." More urgent than the album's opener, Alison Goldfrapp admits her hope for reconciliation in this song, which bounces over a rapidfire tempo and jettisons the singer into a sparkly, confident chorus that benefits from her repetition. As she reiterates, "You've come back to me / I'm a believer / I'm a believer / I'm a believer / In you now," it's almost like she's struggling to convince both her and him but the song works just because of those impassioned urgings, a sense of wanting to believe in something so badly that it hurts. Not the listener, though. Our ears benefit.


And even when the duo slows things down a bit, the songs still end up being toe-tappingly good: Alison Goldfrapp channels Stevie Nicks pretty heavily on "Dreaming," a sympathetic slow burner in which she agonizes over whether her lover actually wants her ("I want to know you mean to stay"), and the title track, "Head First," has an otherworldly quality, thanks to the combination of Alison Goldfrapp's lyrics about being "your visitor" and "on the other side of your world" and backing music that seems like the group hung out with ABBA for a weekend, jacked some eight-tracks before they left and then tweaked the sound to their liking.

But the real triumph in "Head First" is that Goldfrapp totally owns the sound, no matter how many times their tracks may bring to mind the jumpsuit-wearing specters of yesteryear. Nothing sounds forced; it's more like Alison Goldfrapp was born to be a disco queen. And overall, the album ends up being like one track title suggests "shiny and warm," a solid sign of Goldfrapp's transformative brilliance. Karen, Nick and Brian, as well as Barry, Robin and Maurice, would all be proud.

 
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