As something of a follow-up to my last review of Do It Again, I thought I might also review The Inevitable End, which is currently in the “you can’t have it but you can stream it” part of it’s pre-release madness.
Update, 2014-11-07: it’s out!
I happen to have bootlegged the lot from iTunes Radio “First Play”, and, to the best of my knowledge, I have one of the first such bootlegs. I’m only missing one track, which I’ve never managed to get iTunes to play at all. Of course, I’ve also bought the whole album, too, so I feel slightly less bad about bootlegging it.
Röyksopp’s final album starts with the most superb, bass-thumpingly loud piece that, sadly, doesn’t set the tone for the rest of the songs. “Skulls” is the sort of thing that I truly expect from the ‘new, lyrical’ band: it evokes the dance/pop style of Junior with twiddly little key-bends, and one of the best vocoder lines of the year. It’s incredibly catchy and really has to be one of the singles to come out of this album.
Next up, the album version of “Monument”, which is far more dance/pop — in a similar vein to “Skulls”, I might say, but just as slow as the Do It Again version of the song. It’s truly the sort of song you want to turn up, keep turning up, and blow out your speakers listening to it on repeat. It’s every bit a demonstration of the superb technical talent that marks Röyksopp’s style.
Flowing smoothly out of the end of that, “Sordid Affair” follows. It really evokes the sound of Empire of the Sun’s Walking On A Dream, and the vocals from Ryan James, lately of Man Without Country, are the most superb accent to this track as they weave through it. I think, of the vocal collaborations on this album that we’ve not heard before, this takes the cake.
“You Know I Have To Go” with “Jamie Irrepressible” (really Jamie McDermott from The Irrepressibles) really sums up my opinion of it by itself. This track falls victim to the same things that I felt let Do It Again down: a long, winding track that connects unimpressive vocal performances with subdued walls of synthpads fed through apparently indefinitely long filter chains. About the only good bit of this track is where it fades away around the four minute mark; unfortunately, it’s seven and a half minutes long.
Until the official drop, I hadn’t heard “Save Me”, featuring Susanne Sundfør, and my initial judgement was an expectation for this track to be poignant and superb. Unfortunately my judgement was a little off — this track feels more like “Every Little Thing” from Do It Again than “Running To The Sea”. Yet, Sundfør seems far more suited to this song, and it sounds cold, digital and spectacular.
“I Had This Thing”, again featuring Jamie McDermott, explodes from the top with bright synths and strange electronic buzzings, and sounds identical to “You Know I Have To Go”, but with kick drums. McDermott appears to have no distinguishing vocal skill, and so this song, like the previous collaboration on this album, turns into mainstream sludge far too quickly, and takes too long to fade out.
“Rong” is the only other track on the album with Robyn, a nice change after the Do It Again experience. Unfortunately, Robyn seems to have left her lyrical abilities in her other giant platform shoes, and so the only lyrics on this track are, “What the fuck is wrong with you?” and “You’re just so fucking wrong,” both of which sum this track up very nicely. Ignoring Robyn, this track really sounds like “The Girl And The Robot” from Junior, a truly fantastic track, and if this was remastered to lose Robyn, and be extended a bit, this would be exactly what I wanted.
“Here She Comes Again” starts really beautifully, and then, of course, Jamie McDermott’s vocals roll around, ruining what sounds like a reasonable track, yet again. The clap hit also sounds very out-of-style on a Röyksopp track. And yet, the ending is so superbly Vangelis that one wonders whether Röyksopp is getting nostalgic for tracks and albums past.
“Running To The Sea” features the sublime vocals of Susanne Sundfør, and it’s a real breath of fresh air for the album. It was released as a single in 2013 (and its B-side, also appearing in the bonus tracks of this album, was “Something In My Heart” with, yes, Jamie McDermott). It’s bouncy, dark, channels the classic Röyksopp style, and I absolutely adore it.
Observant readers might note that it was about time for another track to be ruined by Jamie McDermott, and you wouldn’t be wrong: “Compulsion” pulls sounds straight from Senior, starts powerfully, and then McDermott’s completely invariant and unremarkable vocal style pulls out again. About the only saving grace of this track is that it has such a superb, pounding rhythm
“Coup de Grace” is so bizarrely out of place on this album that I simply can’t begin to explain how it doesn’t fit. It’s genuinely Röyksopp in a way that very few tracks, even fewer of those officially released, in the last decade have been.
“Thank You” is very much a coda to “Skulls”: it sounds similarly bouncy and vocoded, and thematically, it’s a great way to wrap up this album. Just like “Coup de Grace”, it’s one of the most Röyksopp tracks on this album, and its slow fade out heralds one of the most superbly constructed tracks I’ve heard this year.
In the bonus track pack, we kick off with “Do It Again”, again, a remake conceptually similar to “Monument”, but thematically very different. Slower, more electronic, and more classic, this pushes “Do It Again” back into the style of “Monument” on Do It Again.
“Goodnite Mr. Sweetheart” is reminiscent of music by Röyksopp that used to be available on SoundCloud — a superb blend of light and dark sounds, deep synthesised sounds sounding true. Oddly, it reminds me of the third movement of Juno Morse’s The City and the Stars suite.
“Caramel Afternoon” is so light and gentle that you could almost miss it. It’s the most ambient Röyksopp song I’ve ever heard, and that itself is thrilling, just like “Oh No” following it. Both these songs are the sort of thing that could be listened to forever, distant melodies weaving, dodging and diving to form an aural soundscape, in something of an analogue to post-rock.
“Something In My Heart” features Jamie McDermott, and I don’t detest it, because, when I first heard it as the B-side of Running To The Sea, it wasn’t nearly as overbearingly present. Also, McDermott seems to have put some effort into his vocal performance, unlike the tracks on the rest of this album, it is incredibly beautiful, weaving gorgeous harmonies around itself and flickering coloraturas for great effect.
Röyksopp: The people we’ve been fortunate enough to work with on ‘The Inevitable End’, are people who not only possess brilliant vocal abilities individually - they also in their own unique way, bring their own universe with them…
(left to right: Jamie “Irrepressible” McDermott, Ryan James, Tørbjorn Brundtland, Robyn, Svein Berge, Susanne Sundfør)
While I’m enthusiastic about many of the tracks, I found the whole album to be disjointed and jarring. Röyksopp really needs to return to their Melody A.M. roots, like they did with Senior: instrumental masterworks with immense technological integrity. As it is, it’s very much in the same vein as Do It Again: plaid and predictable, converging to mainstream compliance. It’s also not really a Röyksopp-only album; almost every track features another artist’s influence, and that’s a real let-down, considering this is, officially, their last full-length album.