The case can be made that artists like Goldfrapp function like pop music’s doormat, showing artists the way to commercial success while not necessarily passing the threshold themselves. Whether we’re talking the electro-glitter of 2003’s Black Cherry and 2005’s Supernature or the actual freak folk of 2007’s Seventh Tree, the duo of Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory have maintained a place slightly ahead of the curve — meaning that they get the honor of watching those slightly behind them get big in their wake.
Whether that changes with the release of Head First has to do with how viable this taut, economical ode to the ’80s is. It’s one of the most unabashed love letters to anthemic ’80s synth-pop ever laid to hard disc, with arena-ready choruses and blindingly shiny keyboard riffs finding common ground among Van Halen (the “Jump”-y bounce of lead single “Rocket”), Billy Joel (the jaunty piano jog of “Alive”), and Laura Branigan (the belting insistence of “Head First”).
If that sounds like an unappealing clarion call from a dark musical period that you’re still trying to forget, this isn’t the album for you. But for those of us who weren’t beaten up by Harold Faltermeyer in a dream, Head First is a wondrous piece of creative anachronism.