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Date March 25
Type Review
Source Pitchfork
Title Goldfrapp, Head First
Country USA
Journalist/Photographer Marc Hogan
Text Yup, another wardrobe change. Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory have always valued style along with song, and on most of the fifth Goldfrapp album, Head First, pink spandex turns out to be a great look. Bringing 1980s roller-disco synth-pop motifs out of mothballs has given the UK duo their most immediately entertaining album since 2005 electro-glam juggernaut Supernature. The only problem: They fail to give each song a face as memorable as the overall album's Jane Fonda workout-video get-up.

Good thing Goldfrapp do spectacle like few else. No less a glamor lover than Adam Lambert was quoted recently saying he had wanted to work with the group for his debut, but couldn't because they were already busy with Christina Aguilera-- not exactly pop's dowdiest persona herself. Whether in the clown robes and animal masks of Goldfrapp's expert live shows, or the sharp-edged sound design of an eclectic discography, they treat pop as a form of not just communication, but presentation.

With sunny Van Halen synth tones, Xanadu-era Olivia Newton John optimism, and galloping Giorgio Moroder basslines, Head First marks as dramatic a shift from 2008's disappointing Seventh Tree as that album's moodily atmospheric folk did from the fembot stomp of Goldfrapp's prior two LPs (or those from the John Barry-soaked trip-hop of 2000 debut Felt Mountain). Alison's voice is still commanding, gaining a bit of Stevie Nicks huskiness while staying versatile enough to rise to a glassy peal or drop to a suggestive purr. So, too, are Gregory's electronics, from the fist-pumping opening trio of songs to the krautrock seduction and wordless vocal ambience on the second half.

First single "Rocket" shows Head First at its best, but it's also a reminder of where some of the other songs fall short. When Alison exhorts, "I've got a rocket/ You're going on it," the potential double entendre is obvious. This isn't a come-on, though; with suspicions about "how she got in the door uninvited" and a decisive "you're never coming back," it's a lot closer to a kiss-off. (Although not available on the album, Richard X's powerhouse remix is even better.)

Still, beyond "Rocket", few of the songs here are melodically or lyrically catchy enough to attain anything like the the popularity of the 80s songs they'll remind you of-- or of Goldfrapp's past highlights. An exception is "Hunt", which approaches the bedside intimacy of Beach House or White Hinterland through gorgeously breathy space disco. Another is "Shiny and Warm", full of Suicide-seeking synths and icy sensuality. Alas, a nine-song album doesn't leave much room for error. Goldfrapp remain excellent in the studio-- any future work they do for Aguilera or anyone else (they also recently scored the soundtrack for John Lennon biopic Nowhere Boy) deserves watching-- and there's plenty of highly stylized fun to be had here. Just don't expect to remember many of the details when it's all over. You might be the best-dressed person at 80s dance night, but if there's nothing particularly noteworthy about you otherwise, nobody's going to recognize you out of costume.

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