Real Life Is No Cool sounds like the partially charming, ridiculous broken English that a lot of European artists who decide to record in English employ. It’s just a hair away from what’s correct. In this case, we know that Lindstrøm & Christabelle decided to be incorrect, to be flippant with the words; it’s as if one of the duo, throwing a spent cigarette from their mouth, looked up at the sky and declared it: “Real life is no cool.”
Then apparently, they set about to correct that, because the one unifying theme that Real Life Is No Cool seems to possess is the overwhelming feeling of cool. Lindstrøm and Christabelle are certainly aware of the fact that “cool,” of course, is dead. We killed it the same way that Nietzsche claims we killed God — probably sometime after Fonzie jumped the shark. But maybe they approach that fact with the same recklessness that they do the record’s title. The duo probably doesn’t even set to resurrect “cool”; Lindstrøm and Christabelle just want to parade its corpse about, Weekend at Bernie’s style.
The most obvious labels for the music on this album are “space disco” or “balearic,” but neither of them really feel true to it spirit. The former implies nerdy meandering; the latter is just too terrestrial to ever pin down Lindstrøm’s production. Lindstrøm seems to have reined in his zanier tendencies here, keeping the music tight around the center of each track but loose during the transitions, where he inserts his usually disjointed, wandering point of view into these compositions.
So, throw away the terms “space disco” and “balearic” for this album, even though there is something there, in the way that the tracks seem to reach toward infinity. But the more appropriate descriptor for this album, the simple “cool,” is so nebulous and elusive that it’s fairly wondrous how they managed to create it at all. It likely has a lot to do with the alternately enthusiastic, aloof, earnest, and esoteric vocal contributions from Christabelle, whose presence really floods every single track on Real Life Is No Cool from the Moroder synth propelled (but strikingly not Italo) “Looking for What” to the sensual funk of “High & Low.” Christabelle is only flooding ice, though, because Lindstrøm’s production is consistently, chillingly Scandinavian, even in the album’s warmest track, “Music In My Mind,” and the album’s most obvious single, “Baby Can’t Stop,” which is strongly and supernaturally remniscent of “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough.”
Ambient albums normally concentrate on the goal of creating a mood, because they lack easy pop structures and have to get the listener’s attention another way. Real Life Is No Cool is essentially all pop structures. It’s maybe an accident that Lindstrøm and Christabelle’s project so successfully feels like something hip and modern, like a photograph hung in a museum or cut from an obscure magazine that’s suddenly become part of the landscape.