Maybe Not but it Sure is Fun
If there’s one thing that Hans-Peter Lindstrøm is good at, it’s delayed gratification. From his early epics to the 28-minute title track from 2008’s sprawling Where You Go I Go Too, the Swedish space-disco maestro’s work has both required and rewarded immense patience from its listeners. It’s only fitting then that Real Life is No Cool, his easiest, breeziest collection of dance-pop to date, comes from nearly a decade of prolonged collaboration between him and vocalist Christabelle. It was worth the wait.
Longtime fans will recognize the pair’s earlier singles “Music (in My Mind)” and “Let’s Practise,” each awash in Lindstrøm’s trademark Italo-inflections and Giorgio Moroderisms. As well as both of these tracks have aged, they are fairly dwarfed by the quality of their new album-mates. The most immediate of these newcomers (and Lindstrøm’s most accessible moment to date) is first Cool single “Baby Can’t Stop.” Shamelessly indebted to Michael Jackson’s iconic Off the Wall era, its sugary, synth-funk rhythms and playful horn section reveal a sense of whimsy heretofore unheard in Lindstrøm’s work without sacrificing his sophisticated songcraft. Close seconds come from the shimmering Prince pastiche “Keep it Up” and the nocturnal house jam “So Much Fun.”
Though her vocals do their part to sell the pop numbers, Christabelle’s uniquely detached vocal delivery also helps to anchor Lindstrøm’s continued experimentation. Her stream of consciousness delivery on opener “Looking for What” pulls its separate sonic elements together into an oddly compelling whole, while her processed loops on “Never Say Never” sharpen its psychedelic shuffling into a formidable focus.
Elements of Balearic, dub, and classic R&B all come into the equation at some point alongside Lindstrøm’s established signatures, but are all approached from new, even opposing angles throughout the album’s 47-minute running time, giving them all renewed vigor and novelty. Real life may not be so cool, but Real Life is No Cool does a good job of making us all think it could be.