MusicReview

Alison Goldfrapp: The Love Invention – Plenty of dance floor glitter but a lack of heart and melody

Debut solo album whets the appetite for the return of her partnership with Will Gregory

The Love Invention
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Artist: Alison Goldfrapp
Genre: Pop
Label: Skint

The opening line of Alison Goldfrapp’s debut solo album sets the tone perfectly, with a disembodied voice asking, “How do you see yourself? How do you imagine the world around you? Tell me.”

Goldfrapp has been sharing her unique vision of the world with her audience for more than two decades, and with every record it has differed. With Will Gregory, her musical partner in Goldfrapp the duo, the London-born musician has reinvented herself time and again, from the eerie adventures in trip hop and ambient soundscapes of Felt Mountain to the electro-glam buzz of Black Cherry, the pastoral Seventh Tree and the soaring 1980s-tinged synth-pop of Head First. It has, you might say, been difficult to pin her down despite her often low-key yet significant influence; even Madonna, an artist synonymous with reconstructing her sound repeatedly over the years, was once disparagingly labelled “Oldfrapp”.

Six years after Goldfrapp’s last album with Gregory it’s time for another fork in the road. With Covid scuppering their planned 20th-anniversary tour of Felt Mountain, in 2020, she spent lockdown working on her own music instead. Goldfrapp has always planted her sound in different worlds, but her solo debut is her self-described “tribute to the dance floor”, writing mostly with one the most forward-thinking proponents of pop in the biz, Richard X.

This is, for all intents and purposes, Goldfrapp’s house album, from the synthy club opener Never Stop to the slow, sensual midtempo syncopation of The Beat Divine and the grimy judder of Subterfuge. Gatto Gelato flirts with Italo disco, bridging a squelchy, glam stomp with a chic European breathiness; the standout track Fever, with its arms-aloft build and zooming synthesisers, will inevitably generate comparisons with Róisín Murphy.

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Yet while there are certainly plenty of hooks, breathy vocals and lyrics that recount both the dizzying sensation of new love (“All your colours breathe life back into me, in my head, in my heart, in my face” from Digging Deeper Now; and the title track’s breathy declaration that “I’ve never had a love that felt so good”) and the end of a relationship, there is a niggling lack of heart and melody to many of these songs, something the aforementioned Gregory arguably brought to the table. True, when you simply want to raise your hands to the sky and dance, the more intricate details of a song become trivial. Still, while there are plenty of glittering numbers on this very decent album, it mostly whets the appetite for what Goldfrapp the duo might come up with next.

Lauren Murphy

Lauren Murphy

Lauren Murphy is a freelance journalist and broadcaster. She writes about music and the arts for The Irish Times