ARCHITECTURE IN HELSINKI: NOW + 4EVA (2014)
1) In The Future; 2) When You Walk In The Room; 3) I Might Survive; 4) Dream A Little Crazy; 5) (Boom) 4EVA; 6) U Tell Me; 7) Echo; 8) Born To Convince You; 9) 2 Time; 10) April; 11) Before Tomorrow.
Okay, even I have to admit that the idea of crossing indie twee-pop with Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez sounds «totally batshit crazy» rather than «disgustingly commercial». But, in fact, this is exactly what Architecture In Helsinki goes after on their fifth album. Almost any of its songs could have been released by any of today's electropopping teen idols — the idea here being something like, «say, what will happen if we take that glossy dance stuff and deconstruct it a bit, with fewer effects and overdubs, maybe even an occasional touch of lo-fi?..»
Consequently, guitars and non-electronic instruments are almost completely left out of the picture (with but one or two exceptions that I will touch upon later), but the vocal melodies are improved upon — at the risk of losing it, I'd say that the record probably has a higher percentage of catchy chorus hooks than any previous release by the band. However, it is way too late for this circumstance to be of much help: these songs are catchy in a «Britney» manner, i. e. silly, vapid hooks devoid of humor, intelligence, or human emotion. On my third listen, I was already distinctively getting the feeling of sitting in a sanitized playground designed for little robot kids. If that was the band's intention, they succeeded admirably, but then this is one of those cases where «total adequacy of intent to realization» does not even begin to equal «good music».
Only two of the songs sound like they have anything to do with organic flesh and blood. ʽDream A Little Crazyʼ is an amusing party-oriented «drinking song», melodically a variation on ʽLouie Louieʼ (!) but successfully adding a carnivalesque touch to it. And the closing number ʽBefore Tomorrowʼ is a throwback to the 1970s funk-pop / disco scene that actually features ringing funky guitar riffs, a few lively brass parts, and a credible romantic-optimistic atmosphere that may suck you in without causing any permanent brain damage.
Everything else is... well... synthesizers, drum machines, digital soul distilled to the most primitive algorithms, and even Autotune-a-plenty. Everything in «homebrewn» indie mode, but that really don't make it «intertextual», «ironic», or «allegoric» unless you are a big, big friend of these guys and feel yourself obliged to come up with some sort of complex justification. ʽAprilʼ is easily one of the worst songs I have ever had the mispleasure of listening to for reviewing purposes — at least on their regular material they do not usually go beyond silly hopping, but this here is a faux-ecstatic autotuned electro-ballad. If it is supposed to be a parody on faux-ecstatic autotuned electro-ballads, they forgot to tell. Sounds pretty sincere to me, even coming from a band still named «Architecture In Helsinki».
In short, this is just one more example — but this time, one of the most obvious and outrageous — of «Eighties' nostalgia» laid on thick on the already relatively barren musical scene of the 2010s. At least when this kind of crappy dance-pop was made in the Eighties, it was celebrating fresh breakthroughs in technology, production, and cultural style: hicky, vapid, silly, but «progressive» in their own way. But nostalgizing for idiocy? No thank you. Thumbs down. This is simply not fun any more, no matter how much they pretend to be having it.
Check "Now + 4EVA" (CD) on Amazon