Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

Alphabeat – The Spell

Britain’s favourite Danes return…


Edward Okulicz: An unusual and probably unholy mindmeld of 90s dance pop with a more late 80s SAW sheen — they probably could cover this or this or this and I would buy 50 copies. That said, it’s kind of static and lethargic, and the beat is pleasingly naff but it isn’t kinetic at all — compare it to the unstoppable forces that are the choruses of “Fascination” or “What Is Happening?”. Catchy, but slight.

Chuck Eddy: More Yazz (and the Plastic Population) than Yaz (née Yazoo). And still close enough to both for comfort, though this isn’t nearly the freestyle-revival revelation that the Pete Hammond remix of “Boyfriend” was.

Martin Kavka: On the surface, this is retro-Stock/Aitken/Waterman goodness — poptimism with lyrics that make a twelve-year-old girl feel like an adult — but there’s quite a bit of adventurousness with the production. SAW songs had backing tracks that were metronomes (think “Happenin’ All Over Again”), but “The Spell” has a track that lags ever so briefly behind the rhythm of the vocal, as if there were a bit too much drinking going on in the control booth, and the middle eight is a thrill of wooziness. It’s as if Dr. Dre finally came out of the closet.

Alex Macpherson: Anonymous, dated and forgettable Eurodance which can’t even get something as basic as a house piano right, but infinitely preferable to Alphabeat’s previous incarnation as offensively jaunty ’80s fetishists.

Tom Ewing: First time through I thought the pile-it-on production was concealing a lack of song. Now I think it’s concealing quite a good song, which is actually more annoying.

Keane Tzong: “Boyfriend” hinted that truly great things could come of Alphabeat if only they would ditch their male lead vocalist. “The Spell”, all ’90s dance, teases in much the same way. The vast majority of the song is female-led, with a slight but highly effective chorus… and then there’s the middle eight, and I’m all bummed out that they didn’t just leave a good thing well enough alone.

Jessica Popper: I’d like to hear more of Anders (Alphabeat songs are usually more of a duet between him and Stine), but his camp middle eight is the highlight of the song, so I’m content.

Michaelangelo Matos: If I didn’t like the ’80s shift from new pop (bright, shiny surface) to the perked-up synthpop (&b) (bright, shiny core), why should I accept it in ’80s revivalists? I wish I’d been able to follow through, but unfortunately these Danes know how to sink those hooks: cheerily, insidiously, indelibly.

Alfred Soto: They have the right approach: updated Exposé or Company B, with frantic filigrees. Not frantic enough, however.

Additional Scores

Pete Baran: [8]
Anthony Easton: [4]
Ian Mathers: [7]
Martin Skidmore: [3]

10 Responses to “Alphabeat – The Spell”

  1. I welcome this new 90s revival as a ‘what took you so long’ alternative to the 80s overkill of the latest year(s). It sounds impossibly fresh for what it actually is, and I’m not one to complain when someone manages to fool me to such a degree. One of the catchiest of the year.

  2. I suppose it’s far better than the shit that was Fascination. But still pop music for pop haters; the kind of grey, unremarkable stuff that Popjustice likes to hype nowadays.

  3. Probably deserves an [8] in hindsight, but I was listening to the Danish debut album, and this just isn’t in the same league as “Fascination” or the original mix of “What Is Happening?” (the UK album/single version has less energy and those awful strings), like, it’s fun but waaaaaaay less fun than those two.

  4. It’s just an infectuous melody, dudes, how can it be “pop music for pop haters”. What does that even MEAN? How do I hate pop music by liking this..?

  5. Yeah, I was wondering that myself. I’m guessing they mean this isn’t, uh, “real” pop music. Though how you’re supposed to determine that just by listening to it is beyond me. (Also don’t get why some people think this is such a vast improvement over what Alphabeat were doing last year — if anything, to my ears, it’s more anonymous and has less bounce than the earlier singles I heard, but either way, it’s really not all that different is it? Which is to say I don’t hear how those were “80s” and this one is “90s.” I’d say they’re all mid to late ’80s, and leave it at that. Must be another one of those weird British things.) (And the ’80s were better than the ’90s anyway.) (And I don’t mind music being “dated,” if that’s what this is. Hell, I’m dated!)

  6. I really like this, but I agree with Jessica that more of Anders would’ve been nice. I suspect the housey piano that lex complains about would’ve worked better if it was an octave lower. I hope the new album sounds like this though.

  7. BTW I’d say this sounds more like late 80s (reminds me of Taylor Dane), while the previous album sounded early 80s.

  8. “More anonymous and less bounce” is precisely why it’s so much better than their singles last year, because it was their relentlessly bouncy character that I found so intolerable.

  9. What Miguel Toledo means by “pop music for pop haters” is that he doesn’t like Alphabeat, and he finds people with taste that’s different from his intolerable.

  10. Video:

    The naysayers will have their hell when this MEGATRACK will hit the country like a tidal wave and crash the charts. What a major, major hit! The kind that will lead to imposters attempting coups for at least a year afterwards.