Save Some Kisses
I'll Find a Way
Gimme Ya Ya Love
Abracadabra, but no magic
Soul and rock'n'roll equal heavy perspiring, but the Bazooka Boppers are barely breaking a sweat.
Genre reviving is a reoccurring phenomenon (obviously). Stray Cats brought the rockabilly tradition back to life in the early 80s, and English underground siblings Kitty Daisy & Lewis are vigorously blowing new life into the genre today. Raphael Saadiq has been living in soul land ever since his early days in Tony! Toni! Toné!, but with his recent release The Way I See he's gone all the way back to Motown's heyday both in sound and appearance. Amy Winehouse is recording modern Dusty Springfield homages, and Welsh songstress Duffy sounds ever so slightly like a young Nancy Sinatra in collaboration with Lee Hazlewood.
Oslo-band Bazooka Boppers are also pulling papers from the book of musical history. They have been ever since their 2004 debut Bad Girl Boogie, a rockabilly rudimentary from the then all-girl line-up. Second album Abracadabra sees them lean more towards the soul department, and more significantly, the level of testosterone has increased with Nicolai Reierstad replacing Benedicte Brænden in front of the microphone.
Sonically, as well as visually, Abracadabra is anchored in rock'n'roll and soul. Gazoboogaloo borrows Chuck Berry's signature sound – the intro is a Johnny B. Goode pastiche – and Shake It! sees the Boppers move into early Rolling Stones territory. Still Waiting is a soul tune indicating a fondness for Otis Redding, and No More is a brief visit to Stray Cats' rockabilly land. The Boppers are clearly cherry picking their musical inspirations, but in doing so they are also signing up for a race with past legends that's very difficult to win. And compared to the past, and even to their retro-hugging contemporaries, Bazooka Boppers' Abracadabra sounds pale.
Songs aren't particularly strong and melodies sound repetitive after a while. The Boppers are decent musicians, but they sound constrained, as if playing by a book rather than with the heart. A full line-up with additional horns and percussion gives the Boppers a voluminous sound, but the primal and intuitive qualities that separate the okay from the fantastic are missing.
With the exception of Reierstad, who manages to keep energy leves high throughout, there's not much perspiration going on. The backing vocals are particularly tame, sounding like timid choir girls rather than the feisty felines that raw soul requires.
Neither does the production do the Boppers any favours. Its modern and clean qualities wipe away the traces of personality that could potentially, and beneficially, have added a bit of authenticity.
The five-girls-and-a-boy angle – which is one of the best things about the Bazookas – and the fact that they're bopping in retro land should be more than enough to entertain a wide audience. But the astonishment that's supposed to follow those magic words 'abracadabra' never arrives.