Because that snappy Italian eurodance group Eiffel 65's debut album, Europop, and its first spawned single, "Blue (Da Ba Dee)", was such a massive worldwide success, it was unquestionable whether or not a follow-up album would be produced. And thus it was, and it was labeled "Contact!" I believe it was the Christmas of 2001 when I received my Contact! CD. It was an album I had asked for, along with Moby's "Play" by Moby and Discovery by Daft Punk (all three were given to me that year). Each one had its own merits, including Contact! I was very pleased overall with it back then, and although nine years have passed, the charms still shine through -- even though much of it still has that strong odour of fromage.
As soon as you start off with the first track, Lucky (In My Life), you'll immediately notice that their sound has shifted somewhat, closer to a disco movement than their purely europop outpouring from two years prior. Unfortunately, you'll also notice that their lyrical skills are still the same, more or less (save for the fact that nowhere on this album are there any liminal advertisements for video game consoles). Take the chorus of this track: "I've been lucky in my life / I've been lucky / I've been lucky in my life, I know / I've been lucky in my life / And I've been lucky and I thank you for this life / A good life" (or something like that). It's nice to know that singer Jeffrey Jey is remaining positive, but seriously, songs where the chorus is just one line repeated is what this reviewer calls the epitome of lyrical lethargy. This won't be the first time it happens. This is also an example of when a song goes too long on a single idea, which sadly seems to be a bit viral on this album. After a while, you just say to yourself, "I get it. Move on." Anyway, he song is mildly catchy, but it won't be winning any golden trophies. But the following song, New Life, is pure disco madness and boasts just enough funk to get you off the recliner and into dance mode. It's the instrumentation that's listen-worthy, though the vocals provide minor amusement.
The repetitive chorus returns for the ultimate cheesefest that is One Goal. "All we need is one more go-o-oal / All we need is one more go-o-oal / All we seek is one go-o-oal, one go-o-oal / All we need is one goal". I don't think it's a soccer anthem either. It's an extremely average-at-best song that has never stuck out on the album. And it was a single, too. Shame. To slow things down, King Of Lullaby is pretty useful: it's a dark synthpop excursion that sounds like absolutely nothing they'd ever done prior. Jeffrey Jey seems to have adopted a lower-pitch voice this time... or maybe he's just taking things seriously for that King of Lullaby fellow. The song shows that at least Eiffel 65 has some depth to their compositions, which is much appreciated. But the party won't end at the fourth track; DJ With The Fire is a heavily robo-vocoded tune that, at times, can be downright infectious in the ear. Not infectious like a nasty burrowing parasite, but the good kind. The kind where you want to hear the song again and again. Then they coupled it with Crazy which, aside from being a bit lengthy, is a clear-cut example of their new love of robotic voices and disco grooves all in one song. I wouldn't have minded an album filled with songs like these last two -- that would've put my funky rump into orbit!
Far Away is a bit different, though not by much. It's another standard dance track to fill the void, but I can't explain why the chorus sticks with me. It's just a nice melody, even if it IS sung with a nasty vocoder effect that makes him seem as unnatural as any singing by T-Pain. Another downtempo tune rears its head with I Don't Wanna Lose, a song that I found immediately forgettable. Eiffel 65, at this point, really wasn't known for their slow songs. Listeners expected some funk, some spunk, and shakin' of junk (often packed within a trunk), so when this comes up, it's often buried and never easily unearthed under other songs. I Don't Wanna Lose isn't bad by any means, but it won't be in your mind when you walk away from Contact! afterward. Same may likely go for Morning Time. Though slightly more upbeat and chipper, it's missing a key hook that keeps us audiophiles coming back for more.
But, as before, disco rears its spunky head with Life Like Thunder. As soon as that first synth jab hits, you know that you're going to mentally transported back to the hip 1970s for a short period. This track wouldn't be out of place on Soul Train or at any disco clubs out there, and it illustrates how different their output has become since the last album. Funky stuff, truly. Back In Time, by contrast, sounds a bit more like their old stuff, but my interest does not lie here. It IS, however, at this point when I have to wonder what Jeffrey Jey's voice actually sounds like. Every song is vocoded, and you have to sit and wonder whether the guy can actually sing or not. (I believe their third album solved this mystery somewhat satisfactorily...) So after that, we get something unusual in Johnny Grey, a song about a fellow named Johnny Grey (yep) who gets no attention from the world and is desperate for any affection. All the phone calls he receives are wrong numbers, so he just wants a friend. Awwww. No better venue to plead your case than on an Eiffel 65 album, right? It's a catchy song, though.
Then we have an even deeper-voiced vocalist (though the same one, for some reason) in the more relaxed Brightly Shines. They must be trying to be taken more seriously with all these supposedly introspective songs. Getting credibility is all well and good, but when you counter worthy tracks with ones where you repeat "All we need is one more go-o-oal" over and over again to cheesy beats, it's very difficult to be able to provide that notice. It's a shame, too, because Brightly Shines is quite good if you pay close attention. A promotionally-released single from this album follows, which is Losing You, featuring a duet of sorts between regular-sounding Jeffrey and a slightly higher-pitched female version of his voice in a back-and-forth of repeated chorus lines: "Can't get over losing you / And so I'm tired", over and over. Will the song stick in your head? Yeah, maybe. Will the song be praised for lyrics? No. Did the song ever hit the top of the charts? No. Not even in Estonia? No. It's not quite as cornballish as People Of Tomorrow, though. I won't even go there.
Oddly enough, I was impressed with the melody in Journey as it slowly morphs into a massive modern disco creature. I listened to the track again in my car recently, and it definitely holds up. I can't boogie too much while keeping both hands on the wheel and both eyes on the road, but this was another success on the album. The lyrics won't astound, but when you have such aural brilliance (yes, I'm using that term for an Eiffel 65 song -- sue me), I can forgive. If I have to recommend only a couple of tracks off Contact!, let this be one of them for sure. But now I have reached the final track. Depending on where your version of Contact! comes from, you'll have a different song at the end. From my Canadian edition, I get World In The World. It's a moderately-entertaining synthpop offering, though it likely won't win you over on any major merits, aside from a sound effect that occasionally plays where Jeffrey goes "Ah! Ah!" like a penguin or something. On the other hand, parts of Europe (or at least Italy) got 80s Stars, a very drab italodisco number featuring an obscure Italian singer. It was released as a single with an absolutely god-awful music video. It didn't chart; there is hope for humanity left.
Although we didn't get any songs about PlayStations or capitalism, but we sacrificed these elements for something even better: more funk! Contact! is composed of far less europop and decides to make "contact" with stronger disco and synthpop influences, leading to a much more polished release that immediately demonstrates Eiffel 65's progression as a group. It's not perfect, though: not all tracks will meet with immediate approval. But give it time; if you are into the Italian dance scene, this album will not disappoint. However, if you're seeking something with a bit more finesse and polish, perhaps their self-titled third album will be more suitable for your Walkman (if you still have one).