It takes a hardened soul to withstand the charms of an album that, just three songs in, contains the killer lyric: “My style is the bomb didi bomb di deng gi deng digi digi.” Swedish popstress Robyn waited three years for a stateside release for this eponymous record, which originally saw the light of day back in 2005. Surprisingly, much of the material still sounds as fresh as it did back then, which is testament to both Robyn’s songwriting skills and to the company she keeps; the Knife and Swedish uber-producer Klas Ahlund, who has worked with Britney Spears, are among the producers lending a hand.
The lyrics, as highlighted by the aforementioned segment from “Cobrastyle,” are wonderfully dumb throughout, and Robyn clearly has a fondness for big empty pop that sounds good but says little. Occasionally the album breaks with the formula of fractured beats and vast swathes of teutonic keyboards, but these little touches are usually an unnecessary addendum. The acoustic guitar on “Handle Me” sends the song veering toward TLC’s “Unpretty,” and no one needs to hear that in ’08. The slushy balladry of “Eclipse” and “Should Have Known” slow the album’s final few tracks into an agonizing crawl, making the skip button seem like the greatest invention in the history of humankind.
But for the most part, fans of “Konichiwa Bitches” won’t be disappointed. The keyboard riff that surfaces halfway through “Cobrastyle” is like some kind of eerie minimalist take on Rufus and Chaka Khan’s disco stomper “Ain’t Nobody.” Her collaboration with the Knife on “Who’s That Girl” is full of deliciously noisy drums and stabs of twitchy analog keyboard. The album even contains a spoken-word passage (on “Be Mine!”) that tips a hat in the direction of Joanne Catherall’s parts on the Human League’s ’80s hit “Human.” Clearly Robyn knows her pop history, but she manages to prevent the album from slipping into simple pastiche by always keeping the balance between old and new just right.