An open letter to Miss Goldfrapp, showing my disillusion with her latest un-inspiring slice of pastiche and 80’s shock horror aerobics hi-NRG shtick.

‘Head First’

Alison Goldfrapp in all her dreamy 80’s pastiche glamour.

Mute Records 2010

Download/ CD/ Vinyl (with download coupon)

Tracks –

1. Rocket     (3:51)

2. Believer    (3:43)

3. Alive     (3:28)

4. Dreaming    (5:07)

5. Head First     (4:30)

6. Hunt     (4:34)

7. Shiny and Warm     (3:58)

8. I Wanna Life     (4:13)

9. Voicething     (4:44)

Personal –

Alison Goldfrapp – Vocals

Will Gregory – Arrangements, Producing and Mixing

Chris Coulson – Guitar on track 3

Charlie Jones – Bass on tracks 1,3,4 and 8

Alex Lee – Guitar on tracks 1,3 and 5

Ged Lynch – Drums on tracks 1,3 and 8

Davide Rossi – Violin on tracks 1 and 4

Pascal Gabriel – Production on tracks 1,2,4,5 and 8

Tim Goldsworthy  – Additional programming on tracks 1,3 and 6

Mark ‘Spike’ Stint – Mixed all the tracks

Richard X – Added production on track 3

Dear Alison,

Excuse my over-familiarity and opening gambit, but – what gives?

I mean, what happened? Head First – explain it to me?

We’ve been together now for more then a decade and shared many incarnations.

In all those years, you’ve never put a step wrong – oh we held our breath for a while with ‘Supernature’ – but everything turned out well in the end, it just took a little longer for the re-birth to sink in.

From those mere beginnings, when you swooned cinematic arias over Scott Walker evoking moody opuses, to the misty eyed innocence of the psychedelic litmus test folk of ‘Seventh Tree’ – in my opinion a career high.

Yes it has been a thoroughly enriched and wild journey, from which we’ve emerged fully refreshed and invigorated. Well that was until ‘Head First’ reared its MOR superficial mug above the parapet, putting a kibosh on the whole affair.

Believe me I wanted to fall in love all over again Alison, but you’ve pushed me away rather then embraced. Fair enough, you’re allowed at least one regret or mistake – I mean we are in this for the long-term…right?

Maybe it’s that crowd of shiny electro bods that you’ve been hanging out with of late, especially that Richard X and Pascal Gabriel, who must have seduced you with their promises of gleaming commercial success.

Gabriel has been around the block more then a few times, wiggling his way into the late 70’s London synth scene, tampering with the work of Soft Cell and Yello, then sprinkling some hi-NRG glossy production to a gluttony of soft focus pipettes, from Kylie to Sophie Ellis Baxter (sic!), onto to recent novelties like Little Boots and Ladyhawke – can you see a pattern forming here!

X on the other hand relies upon that all time career high of his – the Sugababes/ Gary Numan mash-up ‘Freak Like Me’, not much seems to have happened since then.

No wonder this new LP sounds so dated and dare say redundant.

Instead of straddling a powerful charger, banner in hand and galloping ahead of the multitude of pop troops, you’ve merely sunk back into the ranks, disappearing behind the latest recruits in a sea of mediocrity.

It pains me even further to see a credit given to some guy for sourcing the synthesisers, like some boast rather then gratitude, wallowing in the obsession to sound like you’ve steeped out of an untapped golden age – I’m afraid you haven’t, its just the 80’s and it has been mined so thoroughly that there surely can’t be much left to steal.

Whatever happened to looking forward?

Hey! Were really in trouble when DFA records head honcho, and electronic alchemist of high regard, Tim Goldsworthy, can’t save you from the mire, though it must be said he hasn’t turned your album into a watered down version of The Rapture or LCD Soundsystem, which could have been embarrassing.

Let’s just take a few choice tracks, say ‘Rocket’ for instance, which re-works the tongue-in-cheek naffness of Van Halen’s ‘Jump’ with all the charm of those aerobic workout background music tapes, which you’d hear in a Jane Fonda video.

Kitsch Euro-disco does not need another re-invention, despite what the kids might say.

I cringed at the space shuttle analogies, especially the finale countdown line (how very apt!), which even Madonna would blush at.

‘Believer’ takes an outdated slice of Kraftwerk, Soft Cell (Gabriel knew they’d come in handy!) and ‘Terminal Jive’ era Sparks (not their best period), splices them together with some left over antics from ‘Supernature’ and drowns it in pastiche.

Depeche Mode pre-set chimes and run away arpeggiator bring in the Robyn on a downer breathless woozy fodder – ‘Dreaming’, whilst the 80’s fixation continues on the dry ice suffocating ‘Hunt’, which includes Eurythmics style panting vocals with awful sounding electric pad drums. This amalgamation of 80’s influences results in a bastardization soundtrack tribute to such rites of passage teen movies as Risky Business – well done!

On ‘I Wanna Life’, Moroder sweeps and oscillations beckon visions of Little Boots dressing up as Olivia Newton John in an attempt to remind us once again how wrapped up in a particular time period this whole album is.

The final track ‘Voicething’ doesn’t offer much of a move away from the main pace and themes, instead merely acting as a ‘in the making’ type experiment that works off constant choral cooing and soothing tones to produce a heavenly soundscape. Unfortunately it doesn’t go anywhere and ends on a disappointing unresolved note, one that leads me to question this entire enterprise.

This LP arrives far too late in the day to be taken as anything other then an outdated parody, that old 80’s bandwagon rolled by a long time ago and is now well out of sight, leaving these prairies far behind  – not that this fact has stopped people trying, mind.

I mean for Gods sake even Ashes to Ashes is on series 3, which is treading on thin ice in its attempt to squeeze out the last drops of that decade.

Ok the kids are lapping it up, but that’s because they never lived through it, to them it’s the equivalent of anyone over the age of thirty still romanticising about the 60’s.

Is this why you’re doing it? You want to be more relevant to the teens? Fuck em! You’re in your forties, probably got a mortgage and commitments, looking forward to taking your foot of the pedal and being finally comfortable, time is on your side dear Alison so let them come to you – remember when you used to lead the pack? You still can and my feelings are that this is just a minor miss footing, on what amounts to a mainly glowing back catalogue of music, this blog even included three of those past albums in our noughties list, so we generally care.

Hey maybe you won’t lose any sleep over my pleas and remarks, hell I may even be wrong. I only complain because, in truth, you could do so much better.


Dominic Valvona

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: