Get out your spandex, sweatbands and roller skates because Goldfrapp is bringing back the 1980s with a vengeance. The duo, composed of Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory, has created a musical time machine, destination 1983.
“Head First,” released March 22, begins with the single “Rocket,” which at first seems to be forgettable. But you listen to “oh oh oh I’ve got a rocket/ oh oh oh you’re goin’ on it,” the infectious chorus worms its way into your brain. Groundbreaking lyrics these are not, but as a backdrop for driving down a long dusty highway, as Alison does in the accompanying music video, these lyrics are perfect. “Rocket” establishes the musical tone of the album, and also demonstrates that to appreciate the album, listeners must temporarily open their mind.
Alison’s delicate but powerful voice is more compelling when showcased in “Believer” and “Dreaming.” These tracks hark back to one of Goldfrapp’s earlier albums, “Supernature,” but with the synth beats dialed down. Alison’s voice is at its ethereal best, cooing “I’m a believer/ I’m a believer” over a fast paced electronic background. In “Dreaming,” she explores the range of her voice, allowing it to spiral higher and higher over slightly nonsensical phrases like “running through a coral castle wall.” Will Gregory’s rhythmic beats are similar to those on Madonna’s 2005 album “Confessions on a Dance Floor.” But in conjunction with Alison’s voice, these two songs are irresistible fun.
“I Wanna life” is the most blatant pop fluff song, and although it is the most danceable track, it is, at heart, a tribute to Olivia Newton-John. Alison encourages the listener to dance over a bouncy beat that would not be out of place in a jazzercise class. Although shamelessly frivolous, the feathery vocals are endearing, and the song serves as a perfect introduction to spring.
The album closing, “Voicething,” is an instrumental piece highlighted with Alison’s cooing to create the most adventurous song on the album.
Undoubtedly, “Head First” is an entertaining album with strong 1980s influences. But it lacks a distinctive sound that turns an entertaining album into a memorable one. With all the competition in electro-pop, from performers such as Lady Gaga and Little Boots, one would expect Goldfrapp and Gregory to differentiate themselves from the pack.
But for those of us young enough not to remember the 1980s, “Head First” is pure escapist fun. The nine tracks leave a lingering sense of optimism, and some of the songs will undoubtedly make their way to Toad’s.