Alcazar

Disco Defenders

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Uber-camp trio Alcazar are one of the few schlager acts to have any impact outside of their native Sweden, having scored a series of European hits in the early noughties with their infectious brand of flamboyant pop. Four years after announcing a hiatus, they return with a new vocalist in tow, Lina Hedlund, for their first album since the departure of founding members Annika Kjaergaard and Magnus Carlsson. Despite its colourful '80s hip-hop cover art, Disco Defenders -- a double album with the second disc separately titled Now and Then -- shows that although the lineup may have changed, their trademark sound certainly hasn't. "We Keep on Rockin'" is an uplifting blend of Chic-style strings and pulsating disco beats which could have been a dancefloor staple at Studio 54, "Burning" is a more contemporary club anthem which recalls the filtered house of fellow countrymen Star Pilots, while their relentlessly energetic Melodifestivalen entry, "Stay the Night," deserved to grace the Eurovision stage more than the operatic Malena Ernman number it lost out to. But the album's highlight comes courtesy of the Pet Shop Boys-penned "Baby," a glorious slice of understated and melancholic dance-pop similar to "The Loving Kind" they wrote for Girls Aloud, which reveals Alcazar's previously hidden sensitive side. However, there are occasions when they veer outside their comfort zone. "Harlem Nights" is a toe-tapping stab at 1930s swing whose jazz handclaps, cheeky brass riffs, and singalong chorus would fit comfortably in the Chicago musical From Brazil with Love is a kitschy bossa nova pastiche which sounds like an alternative theme to 1980s The Love Boat, while "Put the Top Down," the only track to slow down the tempo considerably, is a summery, acoustic, midtempo lament to a carefree holiday which echoes the happy-go-lucky pop of Ace of Base. "Funkytown" is a pointless retread of the 1980 Lipps, Inc disco classic, while their tribute to ABBA, "Thank You," is far too schmaltzy, even by their ridiculously high threshold. The bonus Now and Then disc is essentially just their previous greatest-hits disc Dancefloor Deluxe, (only "Here I Am" is omitted), with 13 tracks cherrypicked from their first two studio albums, Casino and Alcazarized, the highlights of which are the Genesis/Diana Ross mash-up "The World We Live In," the Sheila B. & Devotion-sampling "Crying at the Discoteque," and the cheeky "Sexual Guarantee." But the focus will undoubtedly and deservedly be on the new material, which apart from some occasional generic filler, is pure bubblegum pop at its best.

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