Much has happened since the last album of Scooter, Hamburg's answer to the question, "Who's going to lead us in party music?" The trio went on a German tour to celebrate their "20 Years of Hardcore", playing their biggest hits, and they put out remastered versions of basically all of their albums, save for the final one. (Why remaster something that's a year old?) Then, shockingly or perhaps not shockingly, Rick J. Jordan, one of the founding members, departed for greener pastures, leaving behind bandmates Michael Simon and shoutmaster deluxe H.P. Baxxter to pick up the pieces. They recruited Phil Speiser, also known as Dirty Disco Youth, to fill the void as producer. (They had all previously worked together on the Baxxter, Simon & DDY project with their one single, "Sweater Weather" — it was awful.) And now, in 2014, they were ready to work the nation with a new chapter in the Scooter saga. This is the Fifth Chapter!
What better place to start than with the acroynm T5C as their brief introductory track, showing off a blend of arpeggiated synths and some epic symphonic backing. There's uplifting promise heard here, and hopefully the rest of the album will follow suit. Suddenly, H.P. starts singing in Who's That Rave? (not something he does every day, you know) before shouting/asking, "Who's that rave?" The obvious problem is that a rave is not any one person, so his question will likely remain unanswered. An uplifting synth melody immediately gave me some hope that this album will be pretty good. Then it hits: that sound. That indescribable monotone electro sound that barks in our ears with a fierce rhythm. It's catchy and NOT catchy at the same time. Here is the new sound of Scooter: playing around with weird sounds to make funky EDM. I guess we can live with that.
The second single from the album, Today, is next up. Today features the vocals of Australian singer Vassy, better known for her recent work with David Guetta. Her voice fits pretty well, although I must say that using "And we go oh-oh-oh-oh-oh, and we go oh-oh-oh-oh-ohhh" as a chorus lyric is downright lazy. I've read that the chords behind her are ripped from "Applause" by Lady Gaga, but they're so basic, I wouldn't really mind if someone DID take them. H.P. chimes in with some random shouts, but it's his use of the Klubbheads' classic line that gets me going: "Check out the sound / Here's the rhythm / Even bigger than before / 'Cause it's loud and kickin'!" That part's probably the most interesting aspect of the song; the middle parts are just the standard commercial dance jabs with very little melody that fill the charts today. What happened to melodies? Have they become passé?
We Got The Sound features a high-pitched chorus — a staple of the band — that's completely original and a real earworm. Dance synths play in the background afterward while H.P. spouts out more weird lyrics, mostly showing his ability to count by tens. The weird instrumentation afterward reminds me of when we used to flick our plastic rulers against the desks at school to make funny pitched noises. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if that's exactly how they got that noise. But I dig this tune. It would be neat to hear this one in a big arena. They should have a giant screen behind them with a ruler being flicked on it.
If "We Got The Sound" has an earworm, Radiate has an earwig. After learning that H.P. believes that "you're a lady and I'm a machine", Vassy returns for another round of her powerful troubadourian skills. It goes pretty well for a while — nothing special, but nothing horrid either — and then it hits. As soon as she belts out "Radiaaaaaaate!", everything goes to Hell in a handbasket. Windows shatter. Doors fall off their hinges. Cats run in endless circles. Children's braces curl in uncomfortable positions. The mail carrier quits his job. The last time I heard a sound as piercing as that, I accidentally went to bed to snuggle with an electric drill. That sound just ruins the entire song. I've heard the rest of it, but that certainly doesn't mean I want to do it again after hearing someone sucker punch their own vocal chords this way. (I might exaggerate a tad, but it's still pretty bad.)
Now that we no longer need to radiate, we have 999 (Call The Police) to spook us. This is probably the only remnant of their hardstyle period of 2009. The bass is pounding... sort of. It's a little weak, but I guess it's alright. The high-pitched chorus is absolutely a bit lame and doesn't fit the harder theme of the song. The song's melody also doesn't grab me that much, other than to shake me and tell me what an average hardstyle track it is. "PLEASE! LISTEN! I AM MEDIOCRE BUT YOU MUST LOVE ME," says the track. I reply with a simple, "Nah." This is followed by King Of The Land, which starts as a hearty blend of nice female trance vocals and a catchy melody before switching over to that monotone pick-a-sound-effect formula they've been working with for a few songs so far. H.P. pops in to give his two cents about how he has "the flavour", whatever that is. At least there's a half-decent melody backing him up. The clear high here is the sweet, sweet chorus, which makes up for the relative shortcomings of the rest of the song.
Bigroom Blitz. That one. I already talked about this in its own separate review, as it was the first single from the album. I thought it was pretty bad when it came out in May 2014, and although it seems to fit pretty well with the general theme of the album, it's still a bit silly, even for Scooter. As well, there have since been issues involving the use of Wiz Khalifa's rap samples in the song (someone must have accidentally sent the paperwork to Antarctica instead of the record label), so they just have a goofier-sounding random vocalist taking over with the same pro-drug and anti-feminist lyrics. Thumbs up?
And now, ladies and gentlemen... an instrumental! (Almost.) There are no H.P. lyrics to be found here. Instead, this is an electro track based on the more classical "Mado Kara Mieru" by Christopher Tin. Instrumentally, they're as far apart as possible. The Japanese lyrics are more or less intact, though they're not the focus as much as the sharp synth stabs and pounding beat that infect this track. While not terrible by any means, it's not the most exciting song on the album by a long shot, and it becomes bereft of ideas by about the 1:30 mark... but it still has more than three minutes to go. Huh. Also, did they have to name it "Chopstick"? We get that it's based on an Asian song. Let's not whip out stereotypes here, you German... lederhosen wearers!
Next is Home Again, and it also has a high-pitched refrain, complete with cornball lyrics about how it feels like we're home again. It's another one of their original choruses, which I guess I have to give them credit for (or I could just thank the members of the songwriting camp they held for the album). Again, the chorus is the clear highlight, as this just leads directly into another hardstyle track that resembles their days from five years prior. Still quite listenable. And then H.P. decides to sing again in Fuck Forever alongside electric guitars, advising us he doesn't care if he lives or dies, so "fuck forever". Well, thank goodness he probably won't live that long then, or he might be annoyed. His rock outing is broken up by sweeping electro interludes that, while not spectacular, are certainly not something you hear much of on this album otherwise.
I tried to like Jaguare. I really did. It's a house instrumental that wouldn't sound out of place, ohhh, maybe in the 80s as a work from Jean-Michel Jarre. But unfortunately, there isn't much to the song. Aside from a few magical effects throughout the song, it's basically the same tune throughout with little variation. You hope for a main melody to come soon before you realize that what you've been hearing all this time IS the melody. Huh. Scooter follows that up with T.O.O., which ends up standing for "The Only One", although they released a single by that name about three years ago. The two are not related. The 2011 song was a really party banger (alongside quite a colourful music video). This one is much darker with reverbed piano and vocoded lyrics leading into Scooter's latest attempt at dubstep. With a more youthful producer in the hot seat (Dirty Disco Youth-ful, to be precise), perhaps he should have better perspective on how to do this right. It ends up, however, not being that much of an improvement over what Scooter did a few years back during the big dubstep heyday. It's no worse, either; in fact, I appreciate their choice of instrumentation in this track a bit more. It seems a bit of thought was put into it.
I don't know what it is about Listen, but it's pretty awesome. The same melody plays throughout — yes, I've said that this isn't great — but when accompanied by the vocals of Jessica Jean, it's quite catchy. That bassline also adds a bit of zest, too. The lyrics are pulled from "I'll Always Love You (But Don't Look Back)" by Imagination from wayyy back in 1981, long before Phil Speiser was born. Long before I was born. Long after the cheese in my fridge was born. I originally heard these lyrics in "Listen" by Moonbootica back in 2005, and that version's great, too. Both are awesome. This would be a great tune in a chill bar.
Ugh. That's the sound I'm making now. Why, you ask? Because we're listening to Can't Stop The Hardcore, which hardly qualifies as a hardcore song. It's probably hardcore to people who count the days on their calendar until the next Oktoberfest, because this song sounds exactly like a German drinking song. (I thought I swore off stereotypes earlier...) It's really slow for the most part and it's H.P. singing about drinking vodka and pointing out where the "naked bitches" are. Keep it classy, H.P.! There are brief interludes of what they might consider to be hardcore music, but it's not THAT rough'n'tough. I know Scooter likes to occasionally experiment with strange music styles, but sometimes it doesn't quite work out. This is one of those times.
As close to trance as we will get, we have Fallin', which is a gorgeous tune and one of the best. Saved for almost last, I guess! With Jessica Jean back in the vocal chair and faded pianos in the background, we are led into a plucky trance powerhouse. The kick itself sounds a bit cheesy and old-school, but I enjoy the tune as it is nonetheless. This is one of the highlights and not a song to be missed. Ending our journey through the beginning of the Fifth Chapter is In Need, the most out-of-place ending track I've ever heard. It's deep house, it's simple, and it's not Scooterish in the slightest. While I enjoy the slick house piano work here, and the vocal sample saying "I need you..." isn't bad, it's otherwise forgettable in between those parts. This would have fit better in one of their earlier albums. Like, FAR earlier. I'm talking 1997 here. In Need is an odd way to finish off because there's no thematic link to the rest of the album. That's Scooter for ya.
Have you noticed yet that there isn't quite as much ripping, copying, and borrowing on this album? THAT is a new direction for Scooter.
If you managed to pick up a deluxe version of the album, you also get a slew of remixes of Scooter's biggest hits. Their quality ranges from quite decent all the way to beyond poor. First up is How Much Is The Fish? (Tony Junior Remix). From the start, it sounds quite promising, taking Scooter's 1998 notable classic into the current age with modern sounds. Then Tony Junior, probably not taking any advice from Tony Senior, dumps awful-sounding loud abrasive bigroom synths in our laps that just create a gross vibe. These could've made any song sound horrible. I wish this remix had been included in a "Best of Trashy Bigroom" compilation.
Next is Maria (I Like It Loud) (R.I.O. Remix). It, too, is horrible. I heard this one long before the album came out. R.I.O. takes the stadium spirit of the original and juices all over it with generic bigroom diarrhea, leading very little traces of the original behind, aside from H.P.'s shouts. How this got its own separate release, I'll never know. Move Your Ass! (Stefan Dabruck Remix) is more enjoyable, using the original's chords mixed with house and electro elements to create something new. It's not perfect, but at least it doesn't mess with your eardrums like the two I just heard prior.
Army Of Hardcore (BMG Remix) tries to turn that track into a hardstyler but ends up making it sound worse in the process with cheaper-sounding synth jabs and the weakest bass this side of the Mississipp! Around the 3:00 mark, they throw some strange distortion and slowdown effects on their concoction, but it doesn't make this much of an easier pill to swallow. Friends (NRG Remix) is slightly hilarious, briefly adding a hip-hop beat over the classic sound before sliding back into the happy hardcore style that made the original so popular. This remix even dives into dubstep-like territory later on; NRG must have been trying to be a jack-of-all-trades! It's quite listenable, actually, and pretty faithful to the spirit of the original.
Dave202 places his hands on Scooter's late 2003 success with Jigga Jigga! (Dave202 Remix), and though it's a little messy in the audio mastering department, it's a powerful trancer that doesn't stray too far from the original but still maintains its own unique flavour. There's also I'm Lonely (Kindervater Remix) that lets famed German hands-up producer Kindervater take a stab at another cheesy refrain. His instrumental part is original, and it actually WILL make you want to lift your hands in the air and flail like a marmoset in heat.
Posse (I Need You On The Floor) (Amfree Remix) comes in two parts: one that sounds so close to the original that you'd be hard-pressed to think it's a remix, and another that's basically an electro-hardstyle version of "Derb" by Derb with H.P.'s lyrics lain overtop. Did Amfree think we weren't going to notice this? It's definitely one of the skippables. Fire (Laserkraft 3D Remix) is... weird. They've turned the formerly electric guitars into a chorused buzzy electro synth, making for an odd but strangely enticing sound that must be heard to be believed. It's actually a pretty neat remix.
And now, Shake That! (Barany Attila/DJ Dominique Remix). Does this even QUALIFY as a remix if it basically sounds exactly like the original? I vote no. There are only two notable differences I could notice: H.P.'s vocals are deeper in pitch, and the bass they used is a bit more modern sounding. Otherwise, it's essentially the same and pretty embarrassing, to be brutally honest.
If you were lucky enough to pick up the two iTunes bonus tracks, then you'll be listening to Vallée De Larmes (Lissat & Voltaxx Remix). There's nothing particular special about this, but I can tell they've updated the beat behind the song to be more house-y. There really isn't much of a significant change, although for some reason, it DOES sound a bit more modern, but not by much. Last but not least in our seemingly endless trek is Jigga Jigga! (Dave202 Arena Remix). Sounds very much like the other remix he did, but with a bit more reverb.
This is quite an interesting start to the newest chapter of Scooter's career. While not the perfect album, there's definitely promise here. I like the fact that they didn't spend all their time scanning internet radio stations in search of songs to rip and tear apart, favouring a genuine songwriting process. They stuck to a specific formula a bit too often on this album, and the songs are generally too short, but they're definitely going in the right direction, and there IS a sense of variety here with the different styles they're trying. Let's hope they keep this trend up, and perhaps the next album will be even more massive.