Remember when everyone wanted to be Goldfrapp? Yes, the year we all called Madonna ‘OldFrapp’ and we watched as a procession of doe-eyed wannabe’s started borrowing from their seedy bag of tricks. Soon Kylie was making her BraveKylie â„¢ comeback writhing around on a piano trilling the most Frappiest of confections; the bizzarely dead-eyed dominatrix thump of -Two Hearts’ and Madonna was cracking the whip on her hydraulic stripper saddle-pole contraption, whilst good old deluded Aggie-Come-Lately was flipping through magazines frantically looking for something, anything to get her out of the 1950’s set hairdo-hell someone had created for her.
It wasn’t their fault though, at that time who wouldn’t have wanted to be Goldfrapp? Once they discarded the dull warbley histrionics of Felt Mountain and managed to release themselves from the shackles of pretension they became reborn as super-sonic sexy robot astronauts of pop of the peculiar kind. First with Black Cherry and then with the dazzling Supernature; a solid-gold rush of brilliance that featured the awe-inspiring tune that launched a thousand imitators, the monstrous juggernaut-of-naughty : -Ooh La La’.
In this one song Goldfrapp had captured the quixotic, addictive essence of pop at its most powerful. A song so heady that it burst at the seams with moments of sky rocketing, lustful abandon it should have come with a health warning. It was like being dropper-fed velvet whilst crying champagne tears and stamping your diamond heels into mink-lined pavements. Frankly if you didn’t imagine a Fosse does Magritte avant-garde dance routine involving giant tap-dancing lips and bowler hats pop music just isn’t really for you. Hell, it was so good Girls Aloud based a whole career around the power-house sexual allure of that one song.
Alas, when everyone becomes a poor facsimile of you and your lifes work is being sold to Rimmel what do you do? You ditch the vacant minxy schtick, throw yourself down the rabbit hole and turn everything a little bit ‘Wicker Man’ meets ‘Emmanuelle’, soft-core folk and write charming ballads about fake tits of course. Instead of being a disastrous wrong turn Seventh Tree managed to win people over and forget about sexy-robots, it soon had them cooing -Where can I get a pre-revolutionary cheeky three-cornered hat like that?’
So what now? Alison Goldfrapp has resurfaced in a very different pop landscape ultimately transfigured forever by her very own hand. A place where girls dominate and have all become a mix of the genteel folkster and the frisky popstrel, a place where Xenomania are Gods and arguably the biggest pop star on the planet insists on stuffing her trousers with a dildo before she leaves the house. Must think harder Alison. Must not go backwards.
With Head First the glitterboots are most definitely back on as Goldfrapp applied their usual deft handiwork to the unavoidable radio-heaven single -Rocket’. It’s a song that magically combines the twin sounds of Van Halen’s -Jump’ and the Pointer Sister’s tune of the same name into one three minute wonder. It’s a woosh of adrenaline a pumped up keyboard parp hearlding their arrival, a warning fanfare of -Hi Bitches I’m ba-ack!’. With its underlying threatening lyrics and classic feel the album takes off full of promise.
Sadly after this original high nothing much happens, we’re left stranded with the forgettable non-song -Believer’ until -Alive’ attempts to take up the baton. It -ooohs’ and -aahs’ breathlessly in the right places but unfortunately it sounds like something Hasbro might have come up with for Jem and the Holograms to sing. It’s not until half way through the album on the title track that things begin to take shape. The key to ‘Head First’ is again inextricably linked with their strong visual identity. This is not Germanic silent movie actress Alison of Felt Mountain or Napoleonic Pierriot Clown Alison of Seventh Tree, this Alison is gazing out through the airbrushed clouds like some benign monster Godhead of a confusing Japanese cartoon, this is downer-pop, a silky, fuzzy shaped mind-trip through the cotton-mouthed world of -Ludes and afternoon naps. It flows along in a dreamy drooly way shape-shifting from the swirling -Head First’ to the intense heartbeat of -Hunt’ until it picks up the pace in a safe soothing way with the -Satin Chic’ style Bowiesque plink of -Shiny and Warm’.
The record comes across like an airbrushed seventies pin up calender, everything is beautiful, everything is in the right place but nothing is tangible, it’s Goldfrapp with the fangs removed. Even the luxe, lush Seventh Tree had its moments of fierceness, but the follow up is a polite cough in the catalogue of Goldfrapp that disappointingly only manages to rouse itself from its barbiturate slumber on the bona-fide -Top of the Pops’ moment, the surefire single -I Wanna Life’, as it’s the second last track on the album it comes far too late. With the pop world now stuffed with Florences, Marina’s, Ellies and Ladyhawkes fighting it out to be Electro-Princess top-dog perhaps Goldfrapp left it a little too late to come back to their own party only to be left with the crumbs. Maybe it’s time to call a taxi.