March 6, 2008

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Goldfrapp, Seventh Tree
Mute Records, March 11
By the time you get to “Happiness” — the third track on London-based duo Goldfrapp’s fourth album — any hope for a little of the sort-of-pounding dance-electro-bubble that previously defined the band is dead on the vine. On a dime, the act has turned in the direction of Feist and Sarah McLachlan, submitting a collection of chill-techno and folk, this probably owing to a caffeinated binge of Feist-listening on the part of frontwoman Alison Goldfrapp. This messy rebirth probably won’t be an all-encompassing affair; the sweeping, orchestral Olivia Newton-John-like pop ballad “Some People” is ripe for weird videos, even if the segues between shots of weird human-parrot people or whatever against backdrops of giant pumpkin pyramids or whatnot will be rendered in gentle dissolves as opposed to traditional MTV Clockwork Orange nonsense. But back to “Happiness,” which, simmering in its well-done, laid-back ’60s-mod juices, still sounds big and important. It’s too authentic and interesting, however, to front as the rope-in single to this self-indulgent silliness (nor is the disastrously titled “Cologne Cerrone Houdini,” pointless proof that females can ape Jurassic-age Mike Flowers Pops singles) — if anything from this album survives for a few weeks it’s sure to be the breathy corporate-techno ballad “A&E” (its already released video: Attack of the Leaf People!). DEric W. Saeger