Given everything that’s going on right now with coronavirus and COVID-19, it does a feel bit too close for comfort whenever I hear The Foreign Resort’s Mikkel Borbjerg Jakobsen sing “It’s all dead/It’s all in gloom.” (Of course, Outnumbered was released last April, so how, exactly, was a post-punk trio from Denmark supposed to know that a pandemic would sweep the globe less than a year later?)
Indeed, now does seem a bit of an odd time to be listening to an album like Outnumbered. An album begins with death (figurative or otherwise) and ends with these cheery lines: “Inside, nothing but darkness/Hopes have drowned/And we are few.” But reading recent interviews with the band reveals that such lyrics aren’t simply some gothier-than-thou attempt at nihilism and misanthropy. Rather, the album and its dark lyrics are a response to, as Jakobsen puts it, “feeling very alone in the world today against a huge mass of ignorant people that just hate.”
So what prevents Outnumbered from wallowing in the mire? Put simply, these eleven songs go right for the jugular with a bracing blend of razor-sharp post-punk and chilly synth-pop that — most important of all — is supremely catchy. Sure, the band trades in icy synths and slashing guitars, but these songs are replete with hooks galore that are guaranteed to set your feet a-tapping while preventing the album’s pessimism from bringing you down too much.
A perfect example of this is album highlight “Hearts Fade Out.” Even if you’re not necessarily feeling lyrics like “Hearts fade out, turns into violence” and “the hatred grows old deep inside you” that lament betrayal and the loss of innocence, it’s hard to deny the song’s pulsing synths and banging rhythms. And those glassy, Cure-ish guitars? Well, they’re just the icing on the cake.
And speaking of The Cure, I’m sure the trio have probably grown tired of the Robert Smith comparisons, but if you’ve ever wondered what Pornography might sound like filtered through the great dance-punk revival of the early ’00s, then look no further than the title track. Ominous guitars and swirling effects, Jakobsen’s howling voice, the perfectly ironic balance between bleakness and radio-friendly catchiness — it’s all there, and it closes the album in exhilarating fashion.
Indeed, “exhilarating” might be the best word to describe Outnumbered. While nobody would ever mistake The Foreign Resort for optimists, their latest album is proof that fear, anxiety, and pessimism can provide a great deal of creative energy and restlessness. Obviously, things can’t stay there forever — we have to find hope in something to make it all worthwhile — but the current global climate proves we’re not there yet. In the meantime, The Foreign Resort have written a good soundtrack for troubling times such as these.