A nadir for a group once heralded as purveyors of the very brightest pop.
Mike Diver 2010-03-02
Looking back at the acclaim lavished upon Alphabeat’s debut album, This Is Alphabeat, in 2008, one wonders if those responsible for this platter of past-perishable pop mimicry, these clichéd regurgitations of ubiquitous motifs, are indeed the same Danes who wowed admirers of sparkly melodies and insatiable hooks only a single springtime equinox ago.
The Lady might be Gaga for them, taking them out as UK support on her Monster Ball jaunt, but with The Beat Is… – titled The Spell in their homeland – Alphabeat seem certain to alienate first-album acolytes. Not through any distinct diversion from the formula that worked so well first time, but because this collection repeats the same tricks but neglects to capture any joie de vie whatsoever.
Pocket-sized dynamo Stine Bramsen can still belt it out, and on occasions the interplay between her and male vocalist Anders SG works effectively. DJ finds the pair exchanging lines atop a bouncy-enough backbeat without falling into the trap of trying to out-perform each other, and recent single Hole in My Heart rides an enjoyably retro – its similarity to Black Box has been noted elsewhere, astutely so – piano-house refrain, even if Stine’s claim that she “got inside” her lover is more threatening than it is tender.
But the missteps outweigh any flashes of innate pop ability to a substantial extent. Chess meanders aimlessly, dragging its high-heels every inch of the way, and while the computerised effects on both Stine’s and Anders’ vocals are novel the first or second time you hear them, come the realisation that this is the group’s sole shtick this time out, the instances soon grate. Heart Failure might suit the gullets of a group as comparatively soulless as Girls Aloud, but compare it to Fascination and it’s apparent just how much energy and enthusiasm has bled from this band.
Always Up With You is a hit in waiting, should a dance-minded producer step in to exaggerate its floor-filling elements – like Hole in My Heart it exhibits piano-house overtones enough to trigger flickers of nostalgia amongst certain listeners. But it’s a rare instance of this album raising its pulse and stepping out of a flat-sounding comfort zone. With its makers performing like they’d rather be elsewhere, compositions finalised by playing percentages rather than the passion that fuelled their debut, The Beat Is… represents a nadir for a group once heralded as purveyors of the very brightest pop.