Released: 25th February 2008.
The original pioneers of British electro pop for the 21st century are back. But most certainly not as we previously knew them. 1.2 million sales of their critically and commercially lauded third album "Supernature" later, with it's majestic hits like "Ooh La La" and "Ride A White Horse", Alison & Will from Goldfrapp bring us "Seventh Tree", their fourth studio album.
Though the disco-balls, glamorous synths and lyrics addressed to a "child of venus" or a "dressed up laser beam" are out of the window, in their place is a fascinating, organic and almost ethereal mix of sounds which indebts itself heavily to Kate Bush's Hounds Of Love album - no real surprise, seeing as Alison has cited her as an influence on more than one occasion.
While the synth factor is turned down 5 notches, there's some wonderful mixes of piano, flute and classical guitar present on tracks like "Little Bird", "Road To Somewhere" and the strangely titled "Cologne Cerrone Houdini". On these tracks, Alison's husky yet sky soaring falsetto is illustrated beautifully as shades can be heard of their debut, "Felt Mountain" from 2000. However, there are occasional shades of their previous sounds, so expect the likes of the fantastic "Happiness" and "Caravan Girl" to be follow ups to the current top 10 hit "A&E", which itself is quite a gritty-worded song talking about waking up in a pastel coloured ward after a night out that went horribly wrong.
Though Goldfrapp's new fantasy world may not be as flamboyant lyrically as their last two albums, it's a new fantasy world of some quite amazing music that reattaches itself with back to basics sounds, making for one of their most triumphant releases yet.
Admiration must be dealt to Goldfrapp as the duo unexpectedly change tack on album number four. Out go the synths (mostly) and in come the acoustic guitars. This was make-or-break time for the band as they deserted the genre that finally made them famous with “Supernature” back in 2005.
However, “Seventh Tree”’s laid back mood means that the deck chair Goldfrapp are probably lying on collapses so that there's little more to take notice of.
There are three notable tracks here – first up, the excellent first single “A & E” - a fantastic 3-minutes-and-a-bit song that feels much longer in a good way, as it starts off calm and unassuming, swirls into Kate Bush territory and the last chorus, before fading back into a simple guitar riff.
Secondly, “Cologne Cerrone Houdini”, which almost manages to sound too pompous to merit listening, but is actually a cool, sophisticated track that ties bittersweet lyrics (“See - I'm in your car / But not your life”) with a fantastically high-pitch chorus.
The last is “Happiness” - a clever observation of today's culture of “If I can't help myself then I'll pay someone to help me for me” - summed up by the lyric: “Donate all your money / We'll make it better”. Here, the synths return, squelching and swooshing away, and 'Happiness' would undoubtedly be great live.
Elsewhere, however, there are rather boring tracks in the shape of “Clowns” and “Eat Yourself”, both featuring odd lyrics - the former concerning Barbies and 'titties' and the latter commencing with the line – “If you don't eat yourself / No doubt the pain will instead”. Perhaps a stab at sounding meaningful but in practise leaves the listener pondering the point of it.
In between are okay tracks, particularly “Caravan Girl”, which is a nice follow on from 'Cologne Cerrone Houdini', but, like much of the album, is ambiguous in meaning.
“Monster Love” is a decent finish, tying up the bittersweet mood of the album in the key line – “Here is where we start / and where we end”
Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory are obviously talented artists - weaving pleasant tunes in “Seventh Tree” but faltering slightly by not having many accessible songs. Touches of cleverness and ingenuity are ruined by confusing lyrics, but this album is still worth investigating for the precious few gems.