Golden Earring – are a Dutch band who have been going for about 50 years now. I saw them back in the Seventies and bought their hit album. Since then they have dropped off my radar. I did buy a double disc of 2 of their later (80’s I think) albums; Paradise in Distress – is okay (if you like straight rock, which of late I have really tired of). A few good melodies but a quite conventional sound. Better was a live album Naked 2, quite good versions of their few hits plus a good version of Dylan’s ‘Wheels On Fire. I also have Radar Love – which is a Greatest Hits, best of which are the title track and ‘She Flies On Strange Wings’. I went through a phase of quite liking hard rock bands but nowadays I find them more than a bit boring.
Goldfrapp – are a twenty-first Century electronica duo. Alison Goldfrapp sings and Will Gregory provides the music. I was really impressed with their first album Felt Mountain (2000). There was nothing quite like it, a very distinctive and weird but compulsive sound. I saw them a couple of times and the shows were very theatrical with Alison donning an Alsatian head and strange dancers. However though I have followed them for a few years it has seemed to give slightly diminishing results with each passing record. The debut didn’t sell very well but on reflection I think it was their best work. Of course, with the multitude of music out there already it must be hard to come up with anything remotely new. Best songs on Felt Mountan are the ethereal ‘Lovely head’, ‘Human and ‘Utopia’. There is a timelessness about the album, the music both modern and almost classical at the same time – and Alison’s voice floating above the melody like an angel. 2003 saw Black Cherry – and a significant change in style. Gone was the weird vibrato and in came a harder disco sound on half the tracks. Not that it was unattractive, or unpopular, in fact this was quite a hit record, combining electronic folk on the slower tracks with an infectious updated 80’s feel to the fast ones. Best tracks ‘Crystalline Green’, ‘Black Cherry’ and ‘Forever’, but really the album was all good. Even me, ever the sceptic concerning 80’s synths and disco, managed to enjoy it. As ever it was down to the quality of the song-writing; Will Gregory’s melodies and Alison’s lyrics and off-kilter imagery. In some ways this was a more successful record than their debut, but Felt mountain retains a special place for me. They followed this with another disco-ish album Supernature, which was another commercial success. Not so sure I liked this as much – best songs: ‘Ooh-La-La’ and Ride a White Horse’. 2008 saw a complete reversal and Seventh Tree was a far quieter, more ambient album. I liked it, but felt it lacked any real variation and was too samey. At least they had dropped the 80’s disco stomp – best songs ‘Happiness’, ‘A and E’ and ‘Cologne, Ceronne Houdini’. Head First -came out in 2009 and was a return to more dance-oriented music. Not that this is a bad reord, the tunes are quite good, but there is nothing new here….and fatally nothing that remains in the brain once the CD ends. Best song is the lead single .Rocket, but even this is instantly forgotten ten minutes later. The last album of theirs I have is Tales Of Us from 2013. A return to the pastoralism of Seventh Tree, but slightly better arrangements and songs. The songs are all named after characters and apparently there is a concept behind them, though what that is appears as obscure as some of the sound on the record. Lots of orchestra and soft piano and guitar, which I should love, but somehow the album had never gelled with me, although on a couple of re-listens it does begin to grow on you. I am always expecting more – and maybe the truth is that there is no more – no new styles to discover, no new feelings to emote, no new genre…. But the sounds they created on Felt Mountain were so unique they could have gone further along that new trail. Instead they sought popularity and began retreading old themes. Oh well..
Goodbye Mr. Mackenzie. A Scottish band I know almost nothing about. It started with my buying a CD single of theirs, more for the interesting cover because I had never heard of them – but the name, a title of a book by Jean Rhys, intrigued me too. I liked it and bought a couple of others and then the album Hammer and Tongs. (1991). This was their second album, they had some bad luck with record companies and struggled to get a decent deal. Anyway, as a curio I quite like it, they had an enthusiasm and wrote good songs. Strangely both their albums and CD singles are now rarities and hard to come by. Girl backup singer Shirley Manson went on to form Garbage (see G) but the rest of the band drifted into other groups with little success. Best songs ‘Now we are Married’ and ‘Love Child’. I also used to have their debut album Good Deeds And Dirty Rags on vinyl, and it is very hard to find now on CD, but it was just as good as Hammer and Tongs. One of those mysteries why they never made it; makes you realise just how many really good bands failed and have been lost.