What seems scariest about all endings is that they are, in fact, not really endings. If only every ex-lover simply vanished after a breakup instead of lingering in the world to remind us that their affections had moved on to someone else, that we weren't the only lover of their life, if only that deceased relative left our memories as completely as they left this life, there would be no need to cope. But those lovers linger, that family member is never really gone, and those of us who live with the loss are always left wishing for a closure we know all too well won't come.
How perfectly darkly comic then, was Röyksopp
's decision to saddle their latest — and last — album with the title The Inevitable End
, when they've already gone on record as saying they plan to continue producing music? It's not an irony that's lost on them, of course. This is an album about the pains of endings that offered no resolution, of losses glimpsed in a rear-view mirror, and a future where these losses linger forever.
As happens so often, the onus for such an undertaking falls on the music. Berge and Brutnland might insist that there was "an emphasis in lyrical content" when they took to writing this album but the effort doesn't show; the lyrics are often the most amateurish part of any song. "Running To The Sea," which stands out with urgent percussion, a ramping momentum and Susanne Sudfør's tremulous verve would fail if judged on the merits of lyrics alone: "and the river flows beneath your skin/like savage horses kept within" is one of the clumsiest similes on the planet (savage horses kept within? Within WHAT? And what is the river? Blood, passion, emotions? Why mix metaphors when your first one isn't even clear?). It doesn't, though, and the album rarely does, thanks to excellent arrangement.
Like any good dance album The Inevitable End
is a driving effort with what can only rightly be described as an erotic pulse, both of which work together to save the lyrics from banality. Consider "Compulsion." If it begins as too synthetic, like the worst of all 80s New Wave bands, the distant sound of waves and the fading vocals work with the removed lyrics to turn this from a cliché lament to a something that sounds like a ghost forced to watch the world of the living while trying pathetically to communicate across an unbridgeable gap.
This inability to really communicate or fix problems, to be left regretting what the singer can't understand, is a theme that runs across so many of the songs. It's most obvious in "Rong" (one of my favorites: it sounds almost like a nursery rhyme, as simple as it is, but about halfway through a set of synthesizers and backing vocals are added that lend it a disturbing fun-house kind of sound and then the main vocals begin to tremble and fade for maximum disturbance), where the singer can only ask "what the fuck is wrong with you?" over and over again. But it's present elsewhere; from "Running To The Sea" to "You Know I Have To Go," to "I Had This Thing." The efforts aren't always as strong as they are with "Compulsion" or "Rong" — "Skulls" is a weak and misleading opener, the synthesized vocals are more goofy than frightening, and "Sordid Affair" sounds waterlogged (the references to Bladerunner
play less as profound, than lazy) — but the album evades all of its most apparent weaknesses with an unmatched and vital force.
There's a core of real loss, the album's built around an empty center. Though it may sound exaggerated or trite sometimes, it never never
sounds hollow or false. When it ends on a fade out there's a definite temptation to simply loop the album, hoping to find what it is exactly that hides at this center. You may never find it, that may be the idea, but you won't regret looking once more.
Check out the video for "Monument" ft. Robyn, and get your copy of The Inevitable End