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LABEL: Sheffield Tunes RELEASE DATE: September 1, 2017 GENRE: Hard Trance, Hardstyle, Jumpstyle
// review by Jeff

Yeah, it feels that long.

The German hard dance group Scooter has been around for nearly a quarter of a century. That's a lot longer than many horses live. The group has seen many partings and shufflings of members. And yet, even after all this time, the loud (and sometimes hoarse) yells of frontman H.P. Baxxter continue to echo across packed arenas and overwhelmingly bug-eyed crowds. Their past hits, such as "How Much Is The Fish?" and "Nessaja", still resonate with fans, despite these tunes no longer fitting in with today's blowsy soundscape. With the newest member, Phil Speiser, joining in 2014, Scooter's sound somewhat radically shifted toward newer electro-house and EDM trends, making for a pair of interesting but easily worn out albums. In a move perhaps made for the fans of "classic Scooter", the Hamburg trio has attempted to return to the sound that made them famous with "Forever".

With the symphonic introduction of Foreplay, you know something big (or something pretentious) is about to follow before it enters a weird techno didgeridoo interlude, leading to In Rave We Trust, a loud screecher based on the 1974 song "Amateur Hour" by Los Angeles-based group Sparks. The chorus is, as expected from Scooter, the standard high-pitched voice, but it's the instrumentation that throws me off. It's mostly good, with tingly bells and a pounding bass drum. But it's the cheesy screeching synth that could've been anything else. H.P.'s back in full effect with fast spouting of random lyrics, and he sounds like he did ten years ago. Any doubts of his abilities to be the group's M.C. is quashed here! This hardcore track will probably do quite well in concerts.

Next up is Bora! Bora! Bora!, which served as the album's lead single months prior to release. Taking the melody from their song "The United Vibe" from 10 years prior, it does feel a little uninspired, but the döp-döp-döp chorus is probably just what Scooter fans wanted. I wasn't impressed by it the first time around; it grows on you a bit, but it's still a bit weak. Next up is My Gabber, which is the other single from the album, released around the same timeframe. This is actually a collaboration with Jebroer, a Dutch rap artist, but...not really. In 2016, Jebroer put out a hardstyle track called "Me Gabber", which translates to "My Brother". Now, in 2017, Scooter has teamed up with Jebroer and basically put out the same song, just with the guy singing in English and some extra H.P. lyrics over top of it. The song is catchy, even if Jebroer's voice sounds lazier than a cat on Palm Sunday. Surprisingly, though, the sound fits the album rather well.

Wall Of China (See The Light) is based off the trance song "See The Light" by Paradise, but it feels like an even stronger rip from "See The Light" by Da Tweekaz x Code Black x Paradise. (Yeah, don't ask about that name.) The only thing that's really changed is the chorus rhythm — shuffle a few notes to the left or right and you have a new song — and a few extra H.P. raps, but this version sounds a little meatier and is slightly slower. It's still quite a direct rip overall, and that's disappointing. At least they added a C-Part that's very different, just to differentiate the track from the others.

When I started listening to Shooting Stars (Move It To The Left), I was a little dismayed by the fact that they used another random male crooner with another generic chorus tune, but suddenly some beats they haven't used in... well, possibly ever... appeared, and I was quite surprised! They're pseudo-breakbeats and make the song more listenable! Plus, H.P.'s shouts of "Move it to the left! Move it to the right!" are hilarious enough to keep you hooked right into the jumpstyle joy of the song.

Now I swear I've heard the source of the high-pitched chorus of When I'm Raving on the radio before, but nowhere can I put my finger on it. (Maybe it's because all the songs on our local radio stations sound so damn alike, I can't differentiate them.) Either way, this one's a real pumper, with happy sounds throughout as the dance beat just pounds its way through. I love the weird synth they use during the verses; it reminds me too much of classic video game effects. Can't help but love it.

The plucks of Scooter Forever indicate a push to older times (notably "Choir Dance" from the 1997 single Fire), but having those very melancholy interludes singing about Scooter's many chapters really jars the emotions a little. There's a rumour spreading around that this is the final Scooter album, and songs like this give credit to such rumours. Of course, with H.P. lyrics like "Michael attacked by a pigeon / Having fun is my religion", who can really take this one seriously? Meanwhile, As The Years Go By is pretty standard EDM, marked by the high-pitched voice singing about years gone by and fleeting childhood anxieties about the future but eventually just moving into average electro instrumental territory. At least the robotic H.P. vocals give the tune a little kick.

With a direct throwback to "Fire" in the song ("I've got the chilli / Where's the bo?"), Wild And Wicked is the electric guitar-laden, acid-laced crowd-pleaser that Scooter fans have been looking for. Riot did some good in 2015, but Wild And Wicked seems to be the real deal, hearkening back to their heydays as the kings of techno rock! They're also trying to conquer jumpstyle again with The Roof, based on a sample of "Only You Can" by Fox in 1975. It sounds very ABBA-like with its chipper piano before hopping straight into jumpstyle mode again, complete with happy bells to complete the package. The H.P. lyrics and instrumentation feel very off, though, like they were slid in at the last minute. Same goes for the weird breakbeat they sneak in halfway through.

Kiss Goodnight comes out fighting with a pounding beat in the ears before leading to a chorus based on "Let's Play" by German house duo Lexy & K-Paul. The song's pretty darn upbeat, although their reuse of the phrase "Let's fuck" is probably not the best for radio. Surprisingly, there are no lyrics from H.P. in here, which is actually a bit of a refreshing break, considering he's been in ten songs in a row, which may be a record on a Scooter album. But overall, it's still a good listen. Just don't play it via headphones for your favourite feline pal or you might Kill The Cat! Teaming up with trance legend Dave202, they've created a robust trance powerhouse with deep bass and a very full sound. Definitely one to listen to, if only to hear what H.P. sounds like as a cat.

For a change of pace, we have a downtempo shift into pseudo-psytrance with The Darkside, a take on the Hypertraxx song of the same name from 1999. It's dark, it's got that acid twinge, and it's very reminiscent of the olden days of darker trance. A very interesting addition overall. Even more interesting: Scooter taking on Monty Python with Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life, their half piano-laden classic, half-gritty hardstyle spin on the Eric Idle-penned tune from Monty Python's Life of Brian. It's nice to hear H.P. Baxxter singing like a lounge crooner, and it's just a flat-out goofy ending to the album.

Or IS it the ending? Nope! Scooter opted to also rework ten songs that were, as H.P. puts it, "crucial to Scooter's formation & development". These are all classics in their own right, now just updated a bit with modern sounds. First is Universal Nation, a 1998 classic originally by Push, with somewhat updated sounds and a bass deep enough to be considered a lake. The basic structure of the original remains here, so it's not a serious retooling. Symmetry C follows suit, although the bassline in Scooter's version is DEFINITELY about twenty years sharper. Brainchild's most well-known tune has been done well here.

Sonic Infusion's 1993 track Unfuture gets the next nod, filled with a non-stop unflinching tone and some acid slicing. This one's not really that "updated", to be honest. It's become apparent that these reworks aren't as far removed from their sources as one might have expected. The take on Jones & Stephenson's 1993 track The First Rebirth might break the trend with the grittiest bass drum this side of the Mississip, though the fake choir samples are still intact to give that epic trance feel. Sacred Cycles, which culls from the work of Pete Lazonby, assuredly doesn't sound like it's from 2017 at first — it's more like 1994 (where it actually came from). The combination of dark bass synths and more upbeat faux flute still keep it sounding old-school; in fact, only the more modern-sounding kick is what separates it from the past.

Infrequent Oscillation's Burning Phibes from 1995 starts out sounding as old as it is (and possibly older), but with the addition of current percussion, it takes on a whole new life. Soon enough, the spiky hardware synths and concrete bassline kick into high gear, and you're left with an update that couldn't possibly be pulled from two decades earlier. Lost In Love from Legend B gets a rework as well, although it doesn't really have much in the way of new. In fact, it's a bit slower and missing the rough and radically cool sounds of the 303. Cherry Moon Trax's 1998 smasher The House of House is next up, and I was surprised as how ancient the bassline sounded. I thought Scooter was going to update the sounds, not emulate them. Still, it sounds very much like "Last Hippie Standing" from their 2012 album Music For A Big Night Out: psytrance with a rabidly sinister bassline. This one builds up into a truly terrifying monster, blowing sound at you like a wolverine on a bender.

Two more tracks round out the package. Scooter's version of Space Frog's Lost In Space gets a breakbeat makeover in the first half, but they don't even get to the meat of the song until the second half, using twinkly atmospheric noise to fill the void. It's definitely more up to date than the original but still maintains the old vibe. But I'll get it out of the way right now: Lost In Space 98 is the far more listenable song to me, and they didn't touch this version! Last up is Tales of Mystery, which jumps right in with a catchy jungle rhythm! Again, as it is 2017, they had to slow it down a bit to connect to the youth. The gruff bass synth they use is very strange but seems to fit in well with the retro spirit of these reworked tracks. All in all, their revisiting of classic tunes is respectful; they don't stray too far from the source material and maintain the essence with which they were originally made.

Scooter looked at their previous two albums and said, "Nah, let's not do this again." That was probably the best decision they've made because Forever is the best album they've had in many years. It's astonishing how much of an improvement this is. Let's hope it really ISN'T the final album...


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