Saturday, March 24th, 2012

Alphabeat – Vacation

Gretchen, stop trying to make Wonky Pop happen! It’s not going to happen.


Alfred Soto: It’s easy to mistake the chordal structure of the rhythm guitar for “Rio,” and with a chorus this leaden it’s easy to mistake the vocalist for your little sister’s best friend Chloe.

Anthony Easton: Fun, dumb, and with absolutely no cum. Sounds like the soundtrack to one of those disposable teen sitcoms in the era between Saved by The Bell and I, Carly — but with more pleasure and less by-the-numbers working through.

Iain Mew: The relentless, rinky-dink perkiness I can just about take, but not the enforced universality of its fun. “Every woman every man”! “You’re bound to enjoy”! This after asking “Why do you look so grave?” – I don’t know, I guess I must just be a miserable bastard, but you’re definitely not going to get me to change it this way.

Brad Shoup: I’m not a great photographer. Though I haven’t updated my Flickr account in years, if I added new pictures, they’d be the same nonsense: business signage, tags from local crews, bumper stickers. It’s not that I have some eye for everyday poetics, more like my eye too often stops to consider the banal. I’m an Onion joke. The same guiding principles often inform my taste in music. Certainly, Alphabeat (whether due to their impeccable catalog or their self-contained writing/production) possess a fair amount of cachet. But they’ve tweaked the formula that produced the immortal “Fascination”… now it’s vacuum-sealed production, automatic writing, and nigh-sociopathic sunniness. The overriding impulse in “Vacation” is the naked desire to please — even weirder, to placate an audience that’s old enough to comprehend where joy tends to be won. But, again, this isn’t the handed-down tune that unknown singers imbue with the ineffable, which makes the band’s feat all the more impressive. The frenetic rhythmic chop, Bayside High synth twinkle (the way they mirror large swaths of the refrain’s vocals is its own platitude), and Miami Claw Machine plastic horns create this weird free-speech zone a hundred miles from the halls of musical power. The rigidity of the meter turns Stine Bramsen’s exhortations into sense-objects, temptations toward impossible states. “Why do you/Look so grave/I’ve got just the cure for it,” she sings, her controlled quaver belying a curious kind of desperation. There’s no pause for breath on this track, no contrasting bridge that dares to insert time for daydreaming into the cruise-ship itinerary. But again, I don’t have pretense to secret insight. Some things just freak me out.

Michaela Drapes: There is something slightly off about this track, and it could be something as minor (no pun intended) as the key it’s written in — see Katrina and the Waves’ “Walking on Sunshine” and Nena’s “99 Luftballons” vs. The Go-Go’s “Vacation,” for instance. Though Alphabeat has always trafficked in throwback nostalgia, this is too contrived to actually be good. They’re trying too hard, and the result is just belabored and heavy and dull.

Edward Okulicz: The only other time I’ve heard a band asking me why I look grave, it was fellow Danish group Mew. Evidently Denmark is full of people unable to look happy and needing to be cajoled into smiling. At any rate, “Vacation” is nothing if not obvious; the title gives away that we are in Go-Go’s territory. Not as good, though! Stine Bramsen’s voice can elevate even the blandest trifle, so sticking her over something upbeat is always going to work. I can’t help but wish the actual music had her enthusiasm and zest rather than being a good fit for her foil Anders’ goonish sterility, but even if the chorus is a second-rate “Fascination,” I will pay it.

Andrew Ryce: On first glance this reminds me of those old “Body Break” commercials we used to have here, with their peppy synth horns–really, just Madonna’s “Open Your Heart.” This is so beyond sugary, like diabetic coma sugary, with production values that I can’t decide are brilliant or D-list “let’s-make-a-pop-song” by-the-numbers presets. The verses are sterling and the chorus is fun. I guess this is a good song then? Feel like it’s constantly on the verge of being something greater, but instead it settles for being B-list Europop. Better than D-list.

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