CD Review of Seventh Tree by Goldfrapp
Recommended if you like
Kate Bush, Hooverphonic,
The Beatles
Label
Mute
Goldfrapp: Seventh Tree

Reviewed by David Medsker

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A
lison Goldfrapp is the kind of artist that major labels once killed to sign. It wasn’t because the label heads heard her music and their pupils suddenly turned into dollar signs. No, labels once loved people like Goldfrapp because they knew that, while she may never score a major hit – to date, she is averaging sales of roughly 50,000 units per album in the States – her records would continue to find new fans decades after their release. That used to be the labels’ goal, the awesome back catalog that would prop up a label’s bottom line during the lean years. That was why REM signed with Warner Brothers back in the day, wasn’t it?

The majors, of course, don’t have that kind of patience anymore, so Goldfrapp and her partner Will Gregory have made the artist-happy indie Mute their home. The relationship has served both parties rather well, with Goldfrapp slowly climbing the UK charts and notching their first two Top Ten singles from their 2005 release Supernature (BE critic Jason Thompson will be the first to tell you that he’s changed his tune considerably since he wrote his review of that album). They even made some headway in the States, scoring three straight Number One singles on the US Dance and Club Play charts. Now comes the band’s fourth album, Seventh Tree, and for the first time in their career, a new Goldfrapp album comes with a certain sense of lofty expectations.

Goldfrapp

Leave it to them, then, to take that opportunity to go in the complete opposite direction than what is expected from them. Forget the disco glamour of Supernature and its predecessor, Black Cherry; Seventh Tree is Goldfrapp making a Kate Bush record. Actually, it’s Goldfrapp pretending to be Kate Bush making a late-period Beatles record. It’s the kind of album that no one expects, but suddenly can’t live without.

Some critics have already slapped the Magical Mystery Tour tag on this record, but let’s not be hasty: yes, the Beatles’ influence is palpable – listen to “Little Bird” and just try not singing lines from “Dear Prudence,” and “Eat Yourself” could also pass for an outtake from The White Album – but it isn’t suffocating. “Happiness” is a down-tempo spin on Supernature’s (fabulous) “Satin Chic,” and “Cologne Cerrone Houdini” is the best song Hooverphonic never wrote, so much of the album is as far removed from Beatlemania as you can get. Lead single “A&E” will surely get remixed to death, pumped with the HGH equivalent of HI-NRG beats and hi-hats, but God love ‘em for picking this cute but rather unassuming song to serve as the appetizer for what’s to come. Bonus points for the awesome, awesome video they shot to go with it.

A very interesting trend has started of late with established bands. They score hit records and a dedicated fan base by being oh so trendy, then reveal themselves once the fans are ready to go for the ride (see: My Chemical Romance’s The Black Parade, and holy cow, how about that new Panic at the Disco single). It’s unclear if Goldfrapp went into Seventh Tree with the same intentions, but the decision to walk away from what was surely Kylie Minogue-type megastardom to make a record like this takes guts either way. Good for them for not taking their eyes off the big picture.

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