Sunday, 1 November 2009

The Spell – Alphabeat

(Polydor 2009)

By Joseph Nockles

Did you know Aqua reunited earlier this year? You could be forgiven for not noticing. They didn’t burst back onto the scene with a more mature, acceptable-in-the-noughties, pitched at your mums, “we’re adults and we don’t mind it” album, ala Take That. There was no media storm climaxing with a headline slot at Glastonbury Festival or a series of sold out Hyde Park gigs, ala Blur. Nope, these 90s throwbacks decided instead to kidnap the kooky popsters from Alphabeat, kill them, rip out their insides and masquerade around in their skins while releasing trashy 90s pop under the brilliant brand established through their debut, This Is Alphabeat.

This Is Alphabeat was a fun pop album packed full of odd little surprises and effortless Scandinavian charm. It knew it was pop, but that never felt like a bad thing. They brought in the Britney fans with its great lyrics, simple poptastic tunes and jolly beats. Everyone else wandered over either to ogle the gorgeous leads Stine and Anders SG or because their drugs had settled in and they were confused as to why Los Campesinos were playing a surprise gig with new tongue-twister free material.

Alphabeat are unashamed of their new pure 90s thumping house sound, showcased throughout The Spell. Bless 'em. They weren’t here the first time round. They don't know. They're oblivious to the trauma it caused us. No one has told them about the secret wars between the Ministry of Sound and the Department of Smash Hits! which resulted in a huge cover up operation restricting tracks like “Ride on Time” and “Rhythm is a Dancer” to be played only at office Christmas parties, small Spanish islands full of ex-pats and wedding receptions. That small troupe of cute Danes, “The Fantastic Six” have naively undone years of denial and made us, as a nation, confront a pocket of our musical history that we had almost ignored to dust.

That’s not to say The Spell is a bad album. It’s Alphabeat and if there’s one thing they can do, it’s write a bloody good tune. Approach it with a pinch of salt. Possibly save listening to it until you’re getting ready to go out somewhere that isn’t particularly cool (hairbrush in hand?). I’d recommend it for private bedroom raving before gay nights, drinks with work friends or awkward meals with an ex (just to confuse them when you turn up smiling from ear to ear and gurning a little).

Every track will transform perfectly into a solid house remix and will probably be the soundtrack of 2010 for every Oceania goer out there. We were hoping for some more kooky lyrics about living in a jungle, advice on safe sex masked as wet weather fashion guidance and maybe a few more incidental lyrics thrown in there for the “LION” fans. Oh well, until Alphabeat unleash their third album which will either deliver all this and more or embody the spirits of T’Pau and BWO, we’re quite happy to munch on some disco biscuits, reach for the lasers and stare in awe at Stine’s amazing new haircut. Safe as f**k.

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