Album: Alcazar – “Disco Defenders – Now” (2009)

Right, it’s taken ages to get around to writing this up, mainly because I tend to delete the playlist for whatever I’ve reviewed to make way for more reviews. However in this case it’s turned into a great playlist for cardio sessions at the gym, and a great upbeat album for dull days at work (of which I have many). But I have to let go at some point, so I can move onto equally fabulous schlager albums (I hope).

Sadly though, Disco Defenders seems like it’s their last album, Wikipedia tells me they disbanded just a few months ago. But despite this being released two years ago, it appropriately has a second greatest-hits “Then” disc to go with their new studio album’s “Now” disc. I’ll start with the main event, the “Now” disc.

09 We keep on rockin’ – Gloriously modern production to kick off, with the beginning of an almost relentless tempo. As a mission statement the song works well, and they do their usual name-checking bit too. It’s a simple song but the chorus is totally catchy. The naff Charlie Angels-esque sirensong middle 8 is lovely too. A fun, energetic opener.

08 Burning – The tempo shows no signs of slowing down, in fact it’s just like a megamix so far. There’s more of a song behind this though, with some verses about not being able to get someone off your mind, then a nice lead-in to the chorus by the women. Again there’s not much to the song, it’s just glorious technicolour dance, not as camp as I had always got Alcazar in my mind as being (the cover art doesn’t help on this front). I was only really familiar with the singles from their brief period of success in the UK during 2001/02 so it’s nice to see things have moved on a bit.

10 Stay the night – I’ve already covered this on the Absolute Schlagar front, this is a total triumph. It’s really sad that Sweden never quite saw enough sense to take them all the way to Eurovision despite several close calls. Love this, slightly slutty but completely debilitatingly catchy, and when you have just started to get accustomed, they drop that key change on you. Amazing.

08 From Brazil with love – Oh no, salsa time? Well not quite, there’s some Latin influence here admittedly, but it’s not exactly Santana. God, it’s not even Ricky Martin. It’s nice enough, but it doesn’t really hit its stride until the chorus, I love their harmonies on this. Interested to see this had a writing credit from Danny Saucedo, a familiar name to my ears from my limited Melodifestivalen experience. Still got that great tempo, and a nice change of tone from the out-and-out pop from the previous tracks, though admittedly it’s not a particularly wide diversion.

08 Inhibitions – What does this remind me of? Love Shack? A bit more of a bassline on this one, though saying it’s got a harder sound is a bit of a nonsense if you think outside of the context of this album. Doesn’t sound too inhibited really, lots of porny gasps and slutty pole-dancery vibes coming from this one. It’s not my favourite track, but again by any other standard this would be a pretty strong pop song. I could imagine Girls Aloud giving a good bash at this one (at least in about 2006 maybe).

06 Harlem Nights – Finally a bit of a slowdown, which does ruin my gym playlist a litte bit. Not that the 1920s flapper-girl theme to this isn’t a bad idea, but I have trouble getting on board with this. After the lush disco backdrop of the first half of the album, this feels a bit lacking somehow. I really don’t like the verses or bridges that much, but the harmonies on the chorus salvage it reasonably well. Not quite doing it for me.

07 Baby – A Pet Shop Boys-penned track, no less. Back in faux-70s + 00s-production territory now, I really like the sound of it really. I just feel the chorus lacks a bit of punch and tight vocals, it’s just a bit safe somehow. It’s a nice enough listen, no jarring changes of pace, it flows nicely. It just doesn’t have any big features to get my hooks into. It’s alright.

07 Jump straight into the fire – As if by magic, we’re back into the sound from the beginning of the album. Good right? Well yes, the verses are good with a strong chorus, but while it might make me sound rather hard to please, it’s starting to get into Alcazar-by-numbers now. It’s like Burning and We Keep On Rockin’, but just not as good. Definitely one to prolong the gym playlist more than anything.

08 My my me and mine – A buzzy intro and we’re getting back on track. A subtly different sound, more beat-driven than just a wave of synths (though there are still plenty of these). Some really naff lyrics about binoculars, and it feels like I just narrowly avoided yet another 70s-esque Charlies Angels middle 8. The chorus is warm and fuzzy, and the production is spot-on again.

09 Funkytown – Oh now I loved the original of this, and it’s a great fit as a cover choice. That beepy riff is still as great as it ever way, and while it’s not exactly a groundbreaking new version of the song, they wisely don’t mess too much with it, and the resulting 00s update still keeps it as listenable as ever. The vocals are a bit creaky for once, but generally it works.

09 Put the top down – A surprise detour into semi-ballad territory, and even a semi-return into vaguely Latin territory. The verses aren’t particularly memorable , sounds like an unrecorded Atomic Kitten song. But chorus is really quite lovely and catchy, despite some more clunky lyrics about buying shades and avoiding UV rays. A little padded with “ah ah whoa yeah” lines, but a really nice midtempo highlight with a lovely key-change.

08 Thank You
– I wonder if this was always planned to be the final album, this works wonderfully as a gloopy swansong, and the greatest-hits bonus disc seems to complete the package. A modest first verse that feels like it’s going to burst into “Thank you for the music”. But it hitches up a few notches as the beat kicks in, and we end up with something more akin to a Steps song. That bridge leads seamlessly into that melodramatic but charming chorus. It’s a bit West-End-musical, but a really sweet note to go out on.

Considering I had this on my iPod along with the greatest hits CD, it was always going to be a bit of a mission to live up to a collection of their choice cuts. But it measures up pretty well, and is at the very least a cohesive album that perhaps doesn’t take a lot of chances, but sticks to what they are best at. Some really great highlights here, and while the slight detours into different sounds don’t always run as planned, it’s a great album and certainly one that has tempted me to look into their earlier albums.

Keepers for the iPod: We keep on rockin, Burning, Stay the night, From Brazil with love, My my me and mine, Funkytown, Put the top down, Thank you

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