Every time I get the opportunity to review the latest Scooter album, I first look to see what others have said about it. I always definitely expect a mixture of extreme joys and panicked disgust, with some listeners proclaiming the album to be a divine delivery from the Heavens above, while others are more blunt, declaring it to be the worst Scooter album ever and that this travesty will signify the end of the band. Frontman H.P. Baxxter once said in the 2005 song, "See Me, Feel Me" that "you can't please anyone, so please yourself." Well, Scooter's latest album, "The Big Mash-Up", may just be a clear testament to that mantra. If there was ever a true mixture of styles, this album embodies it.
Scooter was initially unhappy with how the album was turning out and eventually went back to the studio to try some new things. The end result is very much apparent in the first few tracks, showing that they are definitely willing to enter completely new territory and experiment with unique trends. After the brief standard intro of C.I.F.L. (we have yet to determine for what the acronym represents), we are treated to the first real track of the album, David Doesn't Eat, which also served as the third single release. Borrowing cleverly from the more recent complextro craze made popular by that wacky-haired li'l Skrillex, David Doesn't Eat takes the chorus from "A Walk in the Park" by The Nick Straker Band and slides it semi-conveniently into a heavily bassline-infused dubstep atmosphere. Amidst all that, there's even some extra time to take a page more directly from Skrillex and toss in some erratic complextro for those who dislike musical order. Oh, and let's not forget the all-important nonsensical power lyrics from H.P. Baxxter, who is now autotuned more than ever. Altogether, it's a somewhat infectious track (that damn chorus was stuck in my head for days), though it definitely won't be everyone's cup of tea. The first week's music charts sure said so: David Doesn't Eat only hit #67 on the German charts. Ouch, Scooter's lowest debut yet. And we still don't even know who David is or why he is starving himself...
Next up is the dreamy Dreams. Continuing the wild and wacky complextro-influenced train ride, this track is actually far more funky than the previous track and more upbeat as well! Using a variety of insane vocal effects and electronic noises, Scooter's new breakbeat creation sticks a sample from "Reality" by Richard Sanderson right in the middle, making it sound only moderately corny. Have you heard of Richard Sanderson? I sure didn't before this album, and I probably never will again. Of the three songs in this style on the album, this is the most energetic one, so take note of that. But so far, I was enjoying what I was hearing. But then the next song arrived, entitled Beyond The Invisible, and I was soon bombarded with a pitched-voice rendition of the chorus from Enigma's track of the same name. Uh-oh. They did it. They tapped into Enigma. That may or may not be cool. It's actually one of the least accessible songs on the album, but it actually surprised me by being fairly decent in time. Skrillex's influence is most prominent with some seriously snarly synths in full effect. Also present: frontman H.P. Baxxter having a rap battle with a chipmunk-voiced version of himself. Weird, but worth at least one listen.
Sugary Dip. The name alone sounds goofy, but this turned out to be one of the more interesting songs, not because it's revolutionary in any way, but because it's seriously catchy. Scooping up Olivia Newton-John's "Have You Ever Been Mellow" in high-pitched chorus form, this one is more like hard trance than anything heard yet on the album. I particularly enjoy what they did with the chorus, playing with the arpeggiation of the voice itself to create some neat effects. It's basically a party track, but it definitely holds some of that legendary Scooter charm and it's precisely the kind of song I would expect from Scooter. I can't say the same for It's A Biz (Ain't Nobody), which turned out to be a surprisingly good song. I would have never expected a vocal house track of this caliber, along the same lines as many other popular house producers of our time. It's difficult to describe the song, other than by its jungle rhythms while a very club-friendly high-pitch clip rocks our ears. In other words, it's pretty damn good, even if extremely commercial.
The next track, C'est Bleu, feels like a remnant from their jumpstyle period (as well as the early songwriting sessions for this album). It's a jumpstyle track through and through, but it also features the French vocals of Vicky Leandros, who originally performed the chorus tune, "L'amour est bleu". To be honest, this song doesn't resonate with me at all; the jumpstyle is standard enough and nothing horrible, but the French chorus just doesn't belong at all. I generally don't listen to this one much anymore. Sadly still, the following track, 8:15 To Nowhere, a cover of the same song by Vicious Pink, is hardly one of major interest. They took the source material and modernized it, but failed to make it any more notable, trying to inject some modern house elements in the process. The original wasn't that great, and this one isn't much better. An easily skipped track with little remorse.
That doesn't mean the entire album is going to fall downhill, though! As soon as I heard the preview sample for Close Your Eyes, I knew there was something special in the works. Close Your Eyes is a vocal trancer, and aside from H.P. sounding like he just came in from smoking before recording his vocals, all other elements are alluring. The vocal hook is a definite pull factor, and even the main melody is pretty nice, if not amazingly unique. It's an avid mix of trance and a bit of stadium techno thrown in for good measure. Definitely do not miss this one. As for The Only One, the other main single from the album which was released last May (and subsequently reviewed here), it's still the same track as before -- and I thought it was a strong comeback then. The song's effectiveness has slowly faded, which is normal, considering I've been listening to it for half a year, but it's still not a bad tune to get some rumps shaking. Sex And Drugs And Rock'n'Roll is a standard house track that doesn't really discern itself either, although the sassy voice of a rocker chick may resonate with some fun. It wouldn't be too out of place on David Guetta's latest album. But the groove kicks up again with Copyright, which may in itself be a parodical title on their own practices of borrowing ideas from the songs of others. Interestingly enough, there isn't too much borrowing going on here -- it's an interesting track featuring another rap battle between H.P. and... well, actually, we don't know who. The other artist wasn't even credited in the album booklet! Copyright features not only some pleasant hands-up style anthem trance but also one killer bassline! If there's any reason to listen to this, it's that revving-up bassline that really makes all the difference.
The next one is another instrumental, entitled Bang Bang Club, and it definitely suckles from disco's influence. It's again hard to describe this one, but it's a very unusual disco-house track with quite a few elements trying to synchronize, though it actually sounds a bit cheaply made (at least in this day and age; perhaps they could claim it as a leftover track from the 1980s). "Passion" by The Flirts seems to be its main source of inspiration. It's much more intriguing than 8:15 To Nowhere and far funkier! And then... "Laaaaaa, la-la-la-la-la-LAAAAA, la-la-la-la-la-LAAAAA, la-la-la-la-la-SUMMER DREAMIN'..." Oh. Dear. Goodness. Typically, I can stand the high-pitched voices used in Scooter's tracks, but Summer Dream crossed the line. That is easily the most annoying voice used in a Scooter song to date, and it pretty much cancels any other qualities that might redeem the track. Plus, H.P. uses the rhyme, "Gotta gotta git get, gotta gotta git get." That's just terrible writing, even for him. Outside of the vocals, it's another jumpstyle tune, likely produced early in the album's lifetime. I'd avoid it. The closer is Mashuaia, which reminds me of anything created by Armin Van Buuren in the past three years: a solid trance sound, though lacking in the main melody department. Maybe that's where the charm lies. It's definitely worth a couple of spins to see if you can locate the inner beauty of this track. To conclude, Scooter tacked on the remake of their 1995 single, now retitled Friends Turbo. It was released earlier in 2011 as a single as the theme song for the movie, "New Kids Turbo", but as I mentioned in my review of Friends Turbo, very little has been improved; I did not rate it well, but as a stand-alone track, it's very reminiscent of the happy hardcore days from which Scooter originated.
Those who purchased the Limited Edition or Deluxe Fan-Box also received a few nice extras. Included is both is a second disc featuring Suck My Megamix, a mix of all singles (excluding David Doesn't Eat and the original version of Friends - in favour of Friends Turbo) in a continuous DJ-set. It's not bad if you want to ingest a well-defined Scooter history tour in a short amount of time. A bonus DVD featuring their latest massive concert, the Stadium Techno Inferno, shot in Hamburg in June 2011, is also included. And if you were one of the big spenders and picked up the Deluxe Fan-Box, you also received a replica of the necklace H.P. wears, 4 postcards (including a signed one), and a double-side poster, all suitable memorabilia for the Scooter enthusiast. The poster can also cover a crack in the drywall.
All in all, The Big Mash Up was an amusing experience. Scooter's clearly trying something new, and overall, I am satisfied with the result. Not every song is an instant hit, but the effort is definitely there, and there is enough variety for most listeners to find something of interest to be found here (hence the "Mash Up" part of the album's title). It also contains more songs than any other Scooter album to date. And, perhaps most importantly, The Big Mash Up is valid evidence that the three fellows from Hamburg are slowly creeping away from the jumpstyle sound they've unfortunately become associated with, so we can all be thankful for that.