Alphabeat’s Fascination may well be one of my favourite songs of the last decade. Essentially Footloose re-spun Scandi-style, ground-breaking stuff it certainly wasn’t, but sold with such a boundless joie de vivre that you couldn’t help but smile (and the ‘Word is on your lips… say the word!’ section is just shiny pop brilliance). Sadly but perhaps not unexpectedly, there is nothing to match Fascination, or even some of This Is Alphabeat’s lesser moments, on new record The Beat Is…
Whilst This Is Alphabeat saw the Danish band channelling the 80s in their inimitably feelgood fashion, The Beat Is… sees them mining the sounds of 90s dance acts (Black Box, Corona, Haddaway, Snap! et al) for inspiration. If you were frantically throwing shapes to Rhythm Is A Dancer whilst wearing shapeless clothes, perhaps you will fall for The Beat Is… but for me, the resulting marriage between house beats and sparkly Scandipop is far from successful. At times, some arrangements even seem to veer dangerously into pastiche.
Nevertheless, lead single, The Spell, does come close to recapturing Fascination’s magic (spell… magic – see what I did there?!), helped in no small part by the vocals of sole female Stine Bramsen, which retain their glorious radiance – shame these are often computerised to oblivion elsewhere. The other delight that remains in tact from This Is Alphabeat is the interplay between Stine and male vocalist, Anders; in an age where mixed-sex pop groups are an endangered species (in the UK and US markets specifically), this is a joy to listen to and it’s no coincidence that this occurs on pretty much all of the album’s best songs.
DJ and second single Hole In My Heart manage to turn the old-school beats into something new and alluring whilst Heatwave makes the most of the album’s unexceptional lyrics (mostly about being really really into someone… like really) by perfectly capturing the dizzy delirium of being in lust, but after a while, the beats start to grate. This is compounded by what feels like the vitality being slowly sucked out of the group throughout the ten-track duration – at times, it feels like a somewhat lifeless Alphabeat are content to let the beats do all the talking, resulting in dirge like Chess and Q & A that I have about as much desire to revisit as I do 90s fashion.
Remember those ads that had the Duracell bunny hopping about ceaselessly in contrast to the other one powered by the nameless-for-legal-reasons battery that slowly winded down after an initial spout of energy? Well, This Is Alphabeat is the Duracell bunny, still exuberant, fun and packed to the brim with joie de vivre two years on; no prizes for guessing which rabbit I’m comparing The Beat Is… to. Alphabeat could probably be catchy in their sleep – shame they seem to have taken me a bit too literally on this occasion.
Article also available at Teentoday.