Alison Goldfrapp goes solo with some dreamy disco for Glasto: ADRIAN THRILLS reviews The Love Invention
ALISON GOLDFRAPP: The Love Invention (Skint)
Verdict: Futuristic club classics
JONAS BROTHERS: The Album (Polydor)
Verdict: Slick but derivative
CÉLINE DION: Love Again (Columbia)
Verdict: Power and poise
As the public face of electronic duo Goldfrapp, singer Alison Goldfrapp struck the perfect balance between her arty leanings and mainstream appeal.
The music she made with her sidekick Will Gregory was sufficently credible to pick up a Mercury Prize nomination but catchy enough to make Kylie, Madonna and Girls Aloud sit up and take notice.
As the public face of electronic duo Goldfrapp, singer Alison Goldfrapp struck the perfect balance between her arty leanings and mainstream appeal
With the band that bears her surname on an amicable sabbatical — and no indication of when she and backroom boy Will might write music together again — she is striking out alone.
And on the evidence of her first solo album, it’s her poppier, club-friendly side that’s closest to her heart. Left to her own devices, she’s heading to the dancefloor.
Despite being conceived during lockdown, The Love Invention isn’t a ‘kitchen disco’ album in the style of Sophie Ellis-Bextor or Jessie Ware. It eschews the four-to-the-floor beats of 1970s disco and 1980s funk in favour of kaleidoscopic, sometimes dreamlike, sounds.
You get the sense that Alison would rather be letting her hair down at a festival than hot-stepping it round the kitchen island.
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The former X Factor winner returns with a slow-burning ballad that echoes his 2016 hit Say You Won’t Let Go, with the Middlesbrough singer pining for an old flame against a backdrop of acoustic guitars and synths.
Working with producer Richard X and electronic artist James Greenwood (aka Ghost Culture), the London-born singer, 56, seeks inspiration from European disco and the synth-driven strain of early 2000s pop that is the former’s trademark. The influence of 1990s rave culture also looms large.
Make no mistake: love is the drug she’s thinking of. On Never Stop, her sultry voice glazed by futuristic electronic effects, she celebrates an all-encompassing romance. On the sensual Fever (This Is The Real Thing), she confesses: ‘We’re caught in a wild affair’ before hinting it might be an illicit one on Hotel (Suite 23).
The singer has always had a flair for theatricality. Touring Goldfrapp’s Supernature album in 2006, she adorned the stage with female dancers in horses’ heads and feather boas. She’s bound to bring some striking visuals to Glastonbury in June.
For now, though, she is striving to create euphoria with widescreen music alone — and generally succeeding. ‘I fantasise I’m in this huge vista and it’s always sunny, with huge skies,’ she says.
Amid its escapist themes, The Love Invention does touch on other matters. The title track is a light-hearted swipe at wellness culture (‘Is this real or not?’), and So Hard So Hot, written during last summer’s heatwave, is a comment on climate change.
As the album progresses, a more introspective streak emerges. The tempo slows on Subterfuge, a dreamy interlude with looped, robotic vocals, while album closer SloFlo is a delicate meditation on the need to embrace life’s challenges. She does that, and more, on a debut that suggests the single life suits her just fine.
You get the sense that Alison would rather be letting her hair down at a festival than hot-stepping it round the kitchen island
Former Disney Channel heart-throbs the Jonas Brothers make light of any growing pains on their sixth studio offering. Presumptuously titled The Album (where does that leave the previous five?), it’s a skilfully produced (by Jon Bellion) exercise in all-American pop, but lacks soul.
Siblings Nick, Joe and Kevin returned four years ago, after a decade away, with Happiness Begins. Now in their 30s, they have since completed a Broadway residency and this summer launch a U.S. stadium tour on which they will play five albums in full each night. Stamina clearly isn’t a problem. Transcending their influences is another matter.
The Album opens promisingly. Underpinned by three-part vocal harmonies, Miracle is driven by wah-wah guitar and finger-popping funk beats.
Former Disney Channel heart-throbs the Jonas Brothers make light of any growing pains on their sixth studio offering
‘Jersey!’ shouts Joe Jonas, to emphasise the brothers’ smalltown roots in the Garden State. On Waffle House, they recommend a trip to the breakfast joint as a cure-all for sibling squabbles.
There are nods to cultural icons, too. The sun-kissed 1970s-style pop of Montana Sky looks to the Eagles. Americana name-checks Bruce Springsteen, Jay-Z and James Dean. The title of recent single Wings, all analogue synths and slick bass work, isn’t a reference to Paul McCartney’s band, but there are musical similarities. There is also, on closing track Walls, a suspicion that the Jonas clan have been listening to Oasis. A big ballad, it should go down a storm on the trio’s summer tour. It leaves The Album as a respectable return that struggles to impose much individual character.
Celine Dion’s relationship with the big screen has usually been limited to belting out a sky-scraping theme tune. She did it with My Heart Will Go On for Titanic and again with the bombastic Ashes for Deadpool 2.
Her role in new rom-com Love Again (out this week) is different. Not only does she star in the movie (her first film role), she sings every song on the soundtrack, too.
The Love Again album contains six of the French-Canadian’s best-known hits plus five new songs, and there’s quite a contrast between the two strands.
Love Again isn’t quite a case of less is more, but it reiterates Dion’s versatility (file image)
The older material revels in pure melodrama, making the most of Dion’s impressive range. Her cover of Jim Steinman’s It’s All Coming Back To Me Now is a six-minute mini-opera. All By Myself features an orchestra and thunderous drummer — and even they may have run for cover as she hit the showstopping high notes.
The new songs are relatively subtle, for Celine. She clearly has the chops to treat every track as a Hollywood blockbuster, but she presses the button marked ‘over the top’ more selectively here.
The title track is a soft reflection on grief and loss. Waiting On You is a gospel-hued celebration of new love. Piano ballad Love Of My Life is more traditional.
She also revisits the big notes of old on I’ll Be before changing tack again on The Gift, a Latin-tinged pop banger. Love Again isn’t quite a case of less is more, but it reiterates Dion’s versatility.
- Alison Goldfrapp plays HERE at Outernet, London, on May 18, and Glastonbury Festival on June 25. (gigsandtours.com).
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