Alphaville

Catching Rays on Giant

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Alphaville's 2010 comeback album sets the time at defiance, playing as if the last two decades never existed, but the band's return to its prime form is so flawless the record sounds almost timeless. Thirteen years since their last commercial studio album, they pick up where synth pop left off: midtempo beats impossible not to tap to, romantic and nervous keyboard textures that take that space ambience of Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream and put it to work, and dramatic vocals with a weepy edge, like Erasure is still the hottest new thing in town. This is supposed to sound plastic, but it doesn't, the hooks are too good, the melodies too convincing, and the mood is pinned down perfectly, as if the band spent all the time since 1997's Salvation working full-time to polish their stuff (though, as Axl Rose demonstrated, that's not necessarily a good thing). Besides, good dance-pop music hasn't really changed much since Alphaville's heyday, and there's since been plenty of synth pop aficionados keeping the flame alive and making Catching Rays on Giant relevant, but even if the style had been buried and forgotten after "Forever Young," this record would still shine through simply on the strength of its songwriting. Only on slower songs does it show that the band is no bunch of bright-eyed youngsters anymore; there are plenty of ballads, and Alphaville come across tired on those. But they also sound content, as if after a hard day's good work, they have the right to rest on their laurels. Of European pop heroes of the ‘80s, only a-ha have so far showed such longevity and the ability to mature without losing their best qualities, but Catching Rays on Giant adds another group to that singular list.

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