Bobby Vinton’s recording of Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “Blue on Blue” was an inspiration on Royksopp’s 2001 debut album Melody A.M. The song’s ghostly refrain sounded like a trapped and homeless melody hurdling through the cosmos destined for future generations to discover and ponder. There are more pop music archaeological digs on their fifth and amicably announced final formal album The Inevitable End, although nothing as memorable as Bobby Vinton drifting through the galaxies.
The album continues Royksopp’s retroactive electronic rock shaped with dark energy of wasted matter made musical and a hungry dedication to the beat boxes and synthesized keyboards of 1980s synth pop bands. The Norwegian duo – Svein Berge and Torbjorn Brundtland – have put a significant dent in global music sales over the years, helped no doubt by the corporate use of Royksopp’s music in major TV advertising – T. Mobile in the U.K., Geico in the U.S.. While their Euro-rhythm melodies suit the slick commercials well, their songs are more often terminally dark and caustic, equal parts lovesick and suicidal.
On the chorale-like “You Know I Have to Go”, Royksopp’s somber testimony is as resigned as the last message in a bottle from a drowning man. The constant thump of a clinical heartbeat and the subtle sound of a lazy wave breaking at shore adds mournful drama to the mix. Picture 10cc’s “I’m Not in Love” gripped with a shiny, taunting razor blade.
“I Had This Thing” follows the same formula with layers of electronic keyboards threatening to evolve into the sound of Catholic mass before it breaks into an upbeat techno dance number, even while the lyrics anchor the song in contemplative desperation – “I don’t remember anymore what I used to be/There was a fire burning inside of me”.
This sad but danceable music is given a shot of sunshine with remedial tracks featuring Norwegian singer/songwriter Susanne Sundfor on lead vocals. “Save Me” and “Running to the Sea” have a Madonna-like glitter ball pizzazz, the former sounding like Blondie after the tide has gone out again, the latter reaching symphonic grandness like Kate Bush pursuing a mountain summit.
If there is an issue with Royksopp’s bon voyage, it is the repetition of song structures and a few throwaway tracks. “You Know I Have to Go” and “I Had This Thing” are virtually interchangeable. “Coup de Grace” is a remarkably uninspired short instrumental and “Rong” seems only to give the album its parental advisory sticker with the repeated use of mankind’s favorite four-letter word.
The adventurous musical virtues far outweigh the wasted space though, and when you’re not contemplating ending it all, you can dance to it. The CD issue comes with a second CD of added tracks.
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