Estonia’s contribution to the 2010 Eurovision Song Contest, in the form of Malcolm Lincoln, may not have escaped the semi-finals (they finished 14th), but they have provided a catchy piece of modern pop with their debut album Loaded With Zoul.
Alongside Lena Mayer-Landrut, Malcolm Lincoln dragged Eurovision kicking and screaming into 2010 with the modern-retro sound that is currently filling our charts across the world. The brainchild of lead singer Robin Juhkental (best known previously as a competitor in Estonia’s version of Pop Idol) and bassist Madis Kubu, the album was picked up for release by Universal across Finland and The Baltics prior to Eurovision.
Part Post-Punk New Wave, Part Electronic, 100% 80’s influenced, the band appear to wear influences such as Squeeze, Soft Cell and Gary Numan blatantly on their sleeves. Opening and title track ‘Loaded with Zoul’ conjurs memories of Tilbrook and Diffords’ efforts in the early days of Squeeze, with its simple story and catchy tune.
Tracks such as ’Where Did We Loze Our Way?’ and ‘Duya Duya Duya’ however are more pointed in their sound, recalling the early 80s sounds of The Human League and Depeche Mode. Pumping bass and melodic keyboards provide a perfect nightclub track, giving way to dark lyrics of dream-like states and questioning of reality.
‘I Wanna’ presents us with the album highlight, listing all the things we would most love to do, but most of all, to want to lose ourselves in someone, in love. Beginning with ’do-wop’ style backing and a great drum beat, its a kooky catchy tune that you could lose yourselves in, forgetting it is in a fact a story of whining and pleading. Juhkentals brattish screeching about his insanity leading into the chorus, makes this listener feel that the band in fact would not feel out of place as an interval act in an episode of ‘The Young Ones’. And that’s not a bad thing.
The conflicted nature of the upbeat music versus Juhkentals‘ sad and desperate lyrics of love and sanity, maybe in fact be the true strength of the band. Nowhere is this demonstrated better than on the track ‘I’m Ztill Ztanding’. Tales of heartbreak and loneliness betray the nature of its chirpy pop-beat. Despite the lyrical simplicity, it is hard to find fault and not love his somewhat droll delivery of lines such as “Walking round with my head down, all I hear is bloody sound!”; a noise which is then once again referred to in the track ’Siren’.
If there is one track on this album that in fact doesn’t feel quite at home, it is the Eurovision contribution ‘Siren’. On the positive side, the song does stand on its own very well, building nicely during the chorus and lyrically is stronger and has a sing-along quality not found on many of the other tracks. But alongside the somewhat cheerful and upbeat tunes, this deeply cold and brooding track puts a halt on any inclination to dance. It feels over produced, lacking the raw emotion of youthful anarchy and desperation that permeates the rest of the album and makes it such a joy to listen to.
Overall, this is an album of its time and generation, perhaps one that doesn’t fit in that neat Eurovision box a lot of fans would want it to. ‘Siren’ was no classic ballad, and this album is certainly no schlager. What it does reflect well however is the current modern-retro sound and the wave of popular artists it has produced in the world. It may not feel entirely new nor memorable, but Malcolm Lincoln have produced an album that feels right for 2010 and makes you want to dance.
Perhaps the only surprising element on hearing Loaded With Zoul is that this record has not been picked up an indie-club staple play across Europe. The vision of hundreds of sweaty Britpop-esque boys and girls in a crowded nightclub dancing along to ‘I Wanna’ is hard to shake upon listening. The album would sit comfortably alongside the likes of La Roux, The Presets, Simian Mobile Disco and Empire of the Sun in the charts if given the chance outside of the Baltic region.
Loaded With Zoul, by Malcolm Lincoln, published by Pid is available from Amazon.