Goldfrapp, Royal Festival Hall, London, 18 April 2008

4. 5. 2008 | Rubriky: Articles,Live reviews

[by Ken Hunt, London] Goldfrapp’s fourth album Seventh Tree (2008) was reviewed in several places in the British press along the lines of it being “psychedelic folk”. Reviews came with a sprinkling of words such as “pastoral approach” and, oh the joys of semi-accurate quotations, “middle of the public bridleway”. It was the dangled carrot of talk about psychedelic folk that attracted me. Sort of. Not because I am an acolyte of psychedelia’s darker folk arts. I had a decade when editors told me how important every twee and fey, post-Wicker Man manifestation of “psychedelic folk” was. It drove me up the wall and “psychedelic folk” still turns me itchy-twitchy. Goldfrapp was another gig visited not out of revenge for others’ past sins. But again in the spirit of non-preparation, blank-canvas concert attendance.

Alison Goldfrapp is the once Orbital and Tricky singer, the once-disco dolly in retro hot pants, formerly bathed in the light of glitterballs. She mixed freely with dancers wearing get-ups like horses or equestrian statues in a kind of post-glam, kitsch disco rock way. Or so I believe. That much at least had stuck. Goldfrapp, by the way, is also Will Gregory, the former Tear For Fears. When they kicked off, it was clear that they meant business. This was no duo presentation. The stage was abuzz with musicians – and there was a string section sizeable enough for me to give up trying to work out how many they were.

As Alison Goldfrapp sang, I felt an intense solidarity with The Guardian‘s Alexis Petridis who got taken to task in the letters column the following week for giving Seventh Tree a four-star (out of five) review while confessing to one vocal sounding like “Only clowns apley wurgh doh bollergh”. He, at least, had the advantage of having a copy of Seventh Tree. My Goldfrapp baptism was rawer still, since Goldfrapp’s press officer failed to respond. My notes read that way too, mere jumbled phonemes dancing on the notebook path to incomprehension. Fact is Petridis’ approximation made more sense than most of what she sang for the entire first half and 90 percent of the second. In fact I dug his review out of the recycling in order to build a small papier mâché shrine to him to celebrate his acuity. Lyrically Goldfrapp conjured a literary image. In Aldous Huxley’s Ape And Essence – and its BBC television play of yore – the religiously inclined raise nonsense to scripture, with people treating shopping lists like ‘gospel plow’.

What soon became apparent was that this “psychedelic folk” tag had even less pertinence than the usual use of “folk” in the British mainstream press. “Folk”, whether prefaced by “psychedelic” or not, tends to say more about the commentator than the genre. If there was an ounce of folk in the entire evening it sailed over my head. Likewise, any bucolic or rustic content. The good thing was that it removed the need to strain for post-Vaughan Williams or post-Shirley Collins folk morsels amid the sumptuousness of the sound – big string section, six-piece female choir, harp and sundry other instruments. Handily everyone dressed in white/whiteish apart from Alison Goldfrapp, who was dressed in a baby-doll nightie, somewhere around orange on the Chivers jelly-Pantone colour scale, once the lighting had done its business over her.

However, in the second half more words emerged from the blancmange of sound. Consequently making out three words in thirty was no problem for a world music pioneer who has listened to Hungarian and Thai music. The golden rule is to entrain to the rhythm, pick up on the mood, and Bob’s your uncle. By the end Goldfrapp made sense, though little literal meaning. They rounded off the night with the highlight, Happiness – the capping encore – for and before which they dished out plastic kazoos. “If you haven’t got a kazoo, sing along,” she said. (Quirkily the jazzer, raconteur and calligrapher Humphrey Lyttelton had just used this wheeze too, one obituary reminded after his death a week later on 25 April, to set what sounded like the new kazoo orchestra record.) The audience kazoo’d along with gusto at all the right moments though not necessarily with all the right notes.

Maybe that was what “psychedelic folk” thing meant, that “Ain’t got no home in this world anymore.” thing that the Incredible String Band had kazoo’d back in the 1960s when people made their own amusement. Actually no. Take a tight trip on reality, “psychedelic folk” is a still a complete misnomer, even if the multi-screen backdrop with its woodland blurs and treescapes (my new word) did have its wicker moments. That said, in Alexis Petridis’ Guardian review the words “psychedelic folk” did come in double quote marks, so read that as “”psychedelic folk””. Pay heed to punctuation. Despite having no notion of what she sang beyond the odd “You’re my Saturday” and “How do you find happiness?” it was nevertheless an enjoyable gig cum experience. The utterly and truly happy crowd was still blowing happy Happiness kazoo raspberries all over the Waterloo concourse while heading for their trains. Sing after Alexis, “Only clowns apley wurgh doh bollergh.”

Have you enjoyed the article? Digg

Directory of Articles

Most recent Articles