11.18.2008

Goldfrapp: Seventh Tree

I have a confession. A nice woman at Mute records sent me Seventh Tree earlier this year, in hopes that I'd review it at one of the other sites where I write. I never reviewed the CD, though. In fact, I never even listened to it. It sat on my desk for months, and I never even took the shrink wrap off of it. That's how much I didn't want to listen to this album.

I don't know why I hate Goldfrapp. Alison Goldfrapp has a perfectly reasonable voice, and Will Gregory, her musical partner in crime, seems to be a talented fellow, even if his hipster hair and hipster beard and hipster glasses make me want to smite him with irony. (Is that wrong of me? If you take the honest-to-goodness sociopaths out of the mix, is there any group of humanity more annoying than hipster musicians? And is there any better way to abuse them than to use their favorite literary device against them?)

Anyway, I digress. I don't like Goldfrapp. The very thought of listening to Goldfrapp makes me feel icky. I dislike Goldfrapp to the degree that if someone tells me he or she likes them, I immediately think a little bit less of that person, the same way I would think less of a person who told me they hate black people or they kick puppies. Because bigotry and cruelty really have so much in common with bad musical taste, you know?

So, when I looked at the New Releases shelf at the EPFL and I saw Alison Goldfrapp in her stupid pirate hat on the cover of Seventh Tree, I knew it was finally time to listen. Here goes. Wish me luck.

Music: 3 EPFL library cards out of a possible 5
The only way I can honestly review this album is to break it into two sections: all of the songs except "A&E," and "A&E."

The music on Seventh Tree isn't as awful as I expected. In fact, it isn't awful at all. It is dull, though. Listening to Seventh Tree is about as exciting as finding that long lost Carpenters album, Karen and Richard Sit Around and Sing about How Much They Love Ironic Electro-Hipsters. The music is pretty and well-produced, but it's just not that interesting. The words are clever and biting, but they just aren't that good. It's easy to listen to the songs on Seventh Tree, but not a single musical moment from the album sticks with me after the disc ends.

Not a single musical moment except for "A&E," which is absolutely fantastic. The music curves and climbs in a wonderful way, and it supports lyrics about a woman waking up in the emergency room after a lovelorn suicide attempt. (A&E, or Accident & Emergency, is apparently what the Brits call their emergency rooms.) The song is a beautiful juxtaposition of joy and pain. The lyrics are simple but they're remarkably effective: for example, the narrator's "backless dress" -- whether taken on its own or interpreted as a metaphor for a hospital gown -- manages to convey a great deal of imagery with a paltry three syllables.

Packaging: 2.5 EPFL library cards out of a possible 5
Owls, pirates, boobies, owls with boobies... the whole thing screams "pretentious." Or maybe "stupid." Or maybe even "crazy." Whatever it is, the photos are well done and the owl costume is pretty impressive, even if it is pretentious/stupid/crazy. It's a shame that the lyrics are printed in muted gold ink on cream paper, but they're not all that good anyway. My petty complaints of legibility aside, the package does have a kind of other-worldly sense to it, like a poster for the Renaissance Faire or something.

Listen if you like: lite dance/pop like Air, and maybe twee nonsense like Belle & Sebastian. Bjork or Kate Bush fans might give it a chance, but it's remarkably tame when compared to either of those two. All those deaf people incredibly insightful people who loved that annoying brilliant mid-'90s tribute to The Carpenters will probably like Goldfrapp. Owl fetishists and/or furries could seriously dig the artwork.

If it were food, it'd be: sugar free cake with extra saccharine and one deliciously out-of-place piece of fresh fruit right in the middle.

13 comments:

The Mad Hatter said...

Don't forget loving Steely Dan as a prerequisite for having bad taste!!!!!!!!!!!!!

taotechuck said...

You mean that's not a given?

Master Cianan said...

OK, I have some confessions to make. I like Owls, pirates, and boobies. I have hanging in my living room a fine collection of tall ship paintings, and some lovely 70s owl stuff as well. I rather enjoy Belle & Sebastian, as well as AIR, and I do own "If I were a carpenter".

Maybe I should start listening to goldfrapp.

taotechuck said...

Interesting that you fail to mention your affiliation (or lack thereof) with the furries. Very interesting. Omissions say an awful lot, Master Cianan. Or should I call you Master Fluffy Little Pussycat?

Master Cianan said...

Chuck, I'm gonna strangle you. Yuck, dude. I'm glad the furries are out there, though, they're grist for the mill. What I did omit from my previous comment, though, was that I've never listened to goldfrapp, although I've heard them. And despite my above mentioned musical predilections, it never really did much for me, and I can't actually recall the tune to any of their songs. I think in goldfrapp's case, the whole is less than the sum of its parts.

taotechuck said...

That's a good way to put it. The parts are all very good, but the whole is lacking.

But damn, that A&E song is good.

Interesting to me that, if you're serious about liking the things you said you like in your previous comment, you don't like. I would picture this being right up the indie twee hipster's alley.

swarfegafingers said...

I hate the Carpenters but love this. The first time I listened to it I didn't like it much - A&E was the standout - but after 10 listens I think it is the possibly the best I've ever heard. Alison Goldfrapp's beautiful voice plus Will Gregory's multilayered arrangement make for a very special experience.

The Mad Hatter said...

Furries? What in the fuck?

-- Mad Hatter, out.

Master Cianan said...

I dunno how much of an indie twee hipster I am, since I don't go running to find the songs they use in ipod commercials, and I don't think Kate Nash is any good. My twee indie tastes, namely owls and belle & sebastian, have some long history. As does my morbid fascination with Karen Carpenter.

Professor Rosseforp said...

I haven't heard of them or heard them, but in the spirit of your blog are you going to donate the disc to the Enoch Pratt Library, to retrospectively sanction the review here?

taotechuck said...

You know, professor, I edited and re-edited this post so many times that I ended up burying the fact that Enoch Pratt Free Library already has a copy. The CD that the woman at Mute sent me is still sitting on my desk in its shrink wrap. Who knows... maybe I'll open it and listen to "A&E" again.

Omar said...

how on earth you review music like this when it's blatantly based on prejudgments.

and yes I am a goldfrapp, but i'm not a blind one - if she did a faux pas I'll definitely take notice. Alison and Will are musical geniuses in my own point of view.

Btw, she was largely inspired by Linda Perhacs for the album.

jennifer said...

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