CD, KMA Records, 2005
The Alphabet Girls are a London-based female duo that play 80’s-influenced electronic pop music. Lifted straight from their website, the previous sentence basically says it all. In my own words, Maria and Miranda are just a couple of fun-loving Brits who can never get enough of the beepy-bouncy-happy-electro-pop generally dated to around twenty years ago. Apparently, neither can we. Assuming they set out to accomplish the epitome of a stereotype, the girls have without a doubt succeeded in “Beatnik Europa.” Both suitably retro, considering their self-proclaimed 80’s aspirations, and topically trendy (think electroclash, but kindly forego too close an examination), The Alphabet Girls provide a simple, carefree and short-form distraction from the complexities of modern times. “Beatnik Europa” is as superficial and uncomplicated in its approach as the title suggests. Upbeat synthpop rhythms and dangerously catchy melodies combine in a formulaic synthesis that is hard-coded for dance-floor appeal. The album is electro-pop at its most basic, though its unfiltered and innocent nature only vaguely disguises underlying and imaginatively subversive themes of fantasy, anxiety and passion. The Alphabet Girls invite (seduce?) the listener to sing along as they explore whimsical subjects ranging from raw fish personifications (“I am Sushi”) and space travel (“Dream Car”), to social commentary (“This World is Running Out of Control”), unrequited love (“Picture of You”) and feminist agendas (“Automatic Girl”). Tracks on “Beatnik Europa” are short – many between three and four minutes – and limited in scope. Though the majority of songs are immediately forgettable, their power lies in that corresponding contradiction of immediacy. The Alphabet Girls make music for the moment, whether balladic, like “Send My Love Around the World,” or nihilistic, as in “Baby’s Got a Gun.” It is an electro-pop quick-fix that, unsurprisingly, lacks true substance. Perhaps most telling is the girls’ somewhat awkward cover of Patti Smith’s famous “Because the Night,” in which the singing is flat and emotionless, but you can’t resist the urge to dance. However, in comparison with the stylistic approach of other romantic songs, such as “Cover Me With Kisses,” not to mention the album as a whole, those impassive vocals and catchy beats fit right in.
— Dutton Hauhart