Review of Goldfrapp – Thea (Twin Shadows remix)
I’m running late with this review, and I’m running late in the afternoon on the last day of February. I’m wearing a black t-shirt, black shorts, white socks, white trainers. ‘Jo’, the first track on Goldfrapp’s ‘Tales of Us’ album plays on my in-ears. I’m transported; the late afternoon sun dips and flashes above, below the horizon, rendering a landscape of chiaroscuro hedges and intermittently vivid monochrome puddles. I feel like a character in a sixties sporting movie, “The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner” maybe, or something by Lindsay Anderson. And ‘Jo’ is the perfect soundtrack, echoing John Barry and the great sixties chanteuses. It’s melancholic and thrilling.
I’ve had an elliptical relationship with Goldfrapp. I came late to the party, discovering ‘Lovely Head’ from some TV ad, backtracking to the astounding ‘Felt Mountain’ album. Twelve years on it remains complex and incredibly listenable. Then came the purple patch of hits, with ‘Ooh La La’, ‘Black Cherry’, and (according to a Guardian piece I read,) the female sex addict’s weapon of musical choice, ‘Strict Machine’. I bought everything I could lay my hands on. But the last couple of albums I didn’t get on with – the 70’s gloss of ‘Head First’, the faux folk of ‘Seventh Tree’. So I thought my days with Alison and Will were over.
I hadn’t even tried out ‘Days of Us’, the current album. The sleeve is classic Goldfrapp, the vulnerable Alison in a flux of car headlights, before or after some damaged liaison. Then Rich asked me to review the Thea remix (all the tracks on the album are women’s names), and I went out for a run to get it all in context.
I’m running in the damp evening, the scent of bonfires in the distance, the gravel on the railway track crunching under my feet. I’m listening to tales of broken people, watching the daylight sputter out, aware of the birds, the bats, the creatures of the hedgerows. My trainers crush cinders as Alison Goldfrapp’s lyrics and Will Gregory’s downbeat strings wrap the evening in a misty aura.
So a truly memorable run, to a fitting, tender, ever-building soundtrack. It’s not traditional running music but I will always associate it with this February night.
But what of the remix of ‘Thea’ that the record label have asked us to look at? As is traditional these days, the label have elected to bring out a supplementary version of the album to extend the sales life and possibly bring in a new audience that might have missed out. In my case it’s worked – I can’t believe I originally passed on what’s my new favourite album ™.
Twin Shadow is the nom de plume of US muso George Lewis Jr. He’s got that 70’s / 80’s vibe – if you liked the soundtrack to ‘Drive’ you’ll like his stuff. (And, of course, he’s the DJ on Radio Mirror Park if you’re a GTA V player…)
The original version of ‘Thea’ is slightly reminiscent of 80’s Yello with a dash of David Lynch era Julee Cruise. It’s mysterious and enchanting and it builds from a minimal riff to a dancefloor thumper, never losing its edge. It’s a dark night on a highway to a dread destination, exciting, foreboding.
The Twin Shadows remix is less subtle, a hands in the air, Ibiza reimagining, without the sense of foreboding possessed by the original. On the other hand, it’s a terrific dance tune, a late in the night blast, a 2am floorfiller. It’s campsites and dance tents and glowsticks; it’s bonfires and ghost stories to a propulsive beat. By the end the spectre of AG is swimming in a spectral sea of harmony, her voice skating across the night as the stars dim and the sun begins to rise.
Like I said, the point of this remix set is to reintroduce the album. If they’re all as good as this we’re in for a treat. God bless Alison and God bless Will and God bless their Twin Shadows.
‘Thea‘ is taken from the new Goldfrapp album “Tales of Us” , out now on Mute.
The remix bundle featuring remixes by Twin Shadow, Blood Diamond, WAWA and Red Top is released March 24, 2014.
For one night only, on March 4 2014, see the unique Tales Of Us film, followed by an exclusive performance of classic songs and selections from the spellbinding new album screened live to cinemas across the globe.
Find cinema showtimes and tickets at po.st/GoldfrappFilm
Review by Steve Noble