Wednesday, 28 June 2017
The Final Countdown - Europe
Review: I would like a refund.
Whilst, proverbially, curiosity is a slayer of felines, it was also the motivation behind me forgoing a can of Diet Coke to instead purchase Europe's magnum opus. After all, it contains that one track that even the least rock-conversant could recognise. As I sat down to write this review it struck me that hitherto this very moment I have only given this album one or two spins.
Over a decade on, I realise why. Please, feel free to fill in this gap with your own Europe / Brexit joke, because even the startlingly real prospect that the UK is flushing its economy and international good will down the john is less horrific than The Final Countdown.
To be fair, there were a couple of tracks that didn't induce the kind of metaphysical despair that Kafka merely hinted at. 'Rock The Night' is approaching competent for a big production hair metal number and...uh, that's it. I'm revising 'couple' down to 'a single song'. And lest you think I'm taking a kick at an easy target, bear in mind that I gave Faster Pussycat a pretty positive review (notwithstanding their questionable stance towards sexual activity with minors), and will no doubt be swooning over Ratt, Warrant and Dokken in the near future. I tend to like this bollocks. But not Europe, or at the very least, not The Final Countdown.
How did 'Carrie' become a hit? It's overwrought and boring. How did 'Ninja' (the second-worst ninja-related music title I own) or 'Time Has Come' make it past even the most cursory quality control? Little wonder that guitarist John Norum, the only one who demonstrates any flair on this release, quit soon after, claiming that the guitars had been buried under banks of keyboards. It's just a shame that upon completion The Final Countdown wasn't immediately buried under twenty metres of concrete, thus neutralising the radioactivity of its shittiness.
If I had to pick a standout for the most ball-achingly terrible moment on the album I'm going to go for 'Cherokee'. May I digress a little? Back in 2012 my partner was able to join me in the UK just in time for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. I'd been living in this town for about two months, my partner for a week, and we were intrigued to see how the greybeards of the local council thought best to mark sixty years of Elizabeth Regina. I am sure Her Majesty would have been thrilled that it was basically a laser show set to 'The Final Countdown'.
In the same manner, Joey Tempest (lead vocals) thought a fitting way to commemorate the Trail of Tears was through the medium of butt rock. 'Cherokee' begins with what I can only assume is some kind of 'tribal' drumming, but done in so ham-fisted a manner that you wonder if the song is a piss-take. At which point you remember this is The Final Countdown, and it's no doubt meant in all earnestness. Generations of trauma, borne of a people torn from their birthright and rounded up like cattle, are perfectly realised and sensitively depicted through faux-orchestral synths and wailin' solos. I hope that the First Nations people of today are able to seek some comfort or solace in a song that sounded like it was rejected from Magnum's Vigilante album for being too limp.
And what of the title track, deemed by my town council to be fit for a queen? Well guys, I've got news for you; it's rump. If you like crappy, parping keyboard bombast married to some of the most idiotic lyrics ever penned by man or beast (there are, I suspect, apes that could do better) then 'The Final Countdown' is for you. If, however, the parts of your brain that process sensory information are halfway functional then you'll find a spot of waterboarding to be the more pleasurable alternative.
The Final Countdown is only forty minutes, but forty long minutes that transmogrifies your existence into a seemingly eternal waking nightmare. Which, fair play, is pretty strong stuff for a mere fifty pence. It's a pity that I'm allowing Europe to overshadow my almost completely positive impressions of Sweden (I've visited a number of times - let me tell you, the strawberries are a delight) so I'm going to go and cleanse my palate with a spot of Opeth and Vilhelm Moberg, lest I start ranting about blue passports, fishing quotas and the like. Adjö!