Aqua were a one hit wonder, and this is the album they released after the all-important “one hit” DMZ line.
Diagnosis: the band tries too hard. They throw everything at you, including the kitchen sink, the pipes behind their house, and parts of the Norwegian public water distribution system. The album fails to supply any songs as good as “Barbie Girl” and “Dr Jones”, and is quite dull most of time. The arrangements are overstuffed and undernourished, with too many ideas, and not enough really catchy hooks. Aquarius accomplishes the odd feat of being simultaneously boring and overwhelming.
“Cartoon Heroes” and “Goodbye to the Circus” are symphonic, but not in a way that improves the music. The orchestral sections are unnecessary, existing only for their own sake. “Around the World” is barely enough to keep you awake. “Cuba Libre” is an uninteresting latin pop song. Ricky Martin was big at the time, and the band rips him off with all enthusiasm of a foreman ticking a task off a list.
The best songs are “Bumble Bees” and “Freaky Friday”, which may have passed as crappier tracks on Aquarium. The outrageous sexual innuendo is still there and maybe even exaggerated a bit, while other lyrics have a kind of downbeat fatalism. “Welcome to the cliches, welcome to the part…We are what we are, what’s built up will fall, do what you want and be happy.” Slow down, you party animals. Male vocalist René Dif sounds muted and depressed. I guess discovering that your girlfriend is getting deep-dicked by your bandmate doesn’t do wonders for your self esteem.
There’s not much on this album worth listening to. What a disappointment. I was a big fan of Aquarium, it was well-realised and executed, didn’t take itself seriously, and had lots of great songs. There’s no great songs here, just one or two that that maybe pass muster. Some songs sound utterly terrible, like “Halloween”, with its painfully acted skits and annoying chorus. Mostly, though, Aquarius exists at the level of boring. Just listen to “We Belong to the Sea.” My brain just shuts itself off after a few bars. It’s like a fuse blowing.
If you want stupid late 90s pop music, go with Aquarium, go with Vengaboys, go with The Spice Girls, maybe even try Lene Nystrom’s solo album Play with Me. Even Aqua’s godawful comeback album sounds better than this. What we’re witnessing here is a band killing their career. They try, and try, and try, and it’s all for nothing.
Aquarius is desperate, and slightly disturbing. Aqua always did sound a little creepy, like music made by a robot. This album is where the robot realises it doesn’t have a soul and starts crying.