We haven’t heard from Prozzäk in over 10 years. After announcing a comeback, their newest product is a confused, directionless mosaic of clashing musical elements, sub-par vocals, and uncomfortable lyrics.
Prozzäk is a beloved Canadian relic of late ’90s ear worm pop. The duo, consisting of Jay Levine and James Bryan McCollum, play fictional, cartoon characters Simon and Milo. Prozzäk somehow made Levine’s less-than-stellar vocals work in tandem with a variety of instrumentation styles. The characters of Simon and Milo spent the turn of the century taking fans on a Gorillaz-esque adventure through Simon’s troubled love life.
The result was a wide array of stylish pop tracks drawing from worldly cultural influences. “Tsunami” and “Omobolasire” from their first album, Hot Show, come to mind as instantly memorable tracks. 2000’s Saturday People brought us “www.nevergetoveryou,” a vivid pop-rock jam about internet relationships. The album also touched on serious topics with “Be As” and “Monday Morning,” which were about accepting diversity and coping with loss. Finally, the last time we heard from Prozzäk was in 2005’s Cruel Cruel World, a stylistic departure in which the duo adopted a more grounded and concise style while successfully being both mature and playful.
The duo’s latest album, Forever 1999, opens up with the lead single “Love Me Tinder.” It’s a cute jingle about Simon’s adventures with the app. However, it’s bogged down by a dull, energy-breaking chorus and a lack of anything sonically interesting. The same goes for the next track, “All of the Feels,” a catchy, upbeat track about stalking girls over social media.
“Love Fools Anonymous” is one of the better tracks of the album, successfully blending Levine’s voice and McCollum’s acoustic with a club banger structure. The pre-chorus compares Simon’s romantic impulses to “a five year old child,” followed by a hook by Wackyboyz, a pair of young musicians based out of Toronto.
The title track, “Forever 1999,” is a nostalgic anthem targeted to the fans who grew up around the time of Prozzäk’s heyday. It makes reference to Eminem and then basically nothing else particularly identifiable with the ’90s, with lyrics mentioning prom, running away from home, and other adolescent memories. Structurally, it’s more of a pop song than most of the other tracks on the album, consisting of generic bump-clap beats and harmonic crowd shouting. The tropes are generic and tired at this point, but still listenable, making Forever 1999 one of the better tracks on the record.
“If We Were in the Jungle” is another dance track, featuring Catey Shaw, known for her 2014 track “Brooklyn Girls.” Shaw’s vocals carry the track through, while Levine’s lyrics actually flows well with the structure of the verses. This, along with “Pussy Cat Pussy Cat,” are surprisingly good tracks, despite some uncomfortable lyrics and heavily tuned vocals.
In “Ooh La La,” Shaw harmonizes with Levine with an earnest theme of two people who understand each other like no one else does. Unfortunately, it’s bogged down by an obnoxious, gibberish sample of the Wackyboyz’s track, “Easter Bunny.” While the sample works with the theme of the song, it brings down the production and energy, rendering it entirely skippable.
“Hot” is an odd amalgamation of generic clubber motifs with vocals akin to Benny Benassi’s 2002 hit, “Satisfaction.” The track does not feature Levine’s vocals, and it feels completely out of place on the record.
Forever 1999 severely lacks Prozzäk’s ability to tell stories through song. Several of their classic tracks such as “www.nevergetoveryou” and “Tsunami” painted adventures into the world of Simon & Milo. That style is almost non-existent in this new album. The first three tracks almost pull it off, but stop short of saying anything interesting or creating a plot. “Can’t Lick This Love Thing” is the track most similar to the signature Prozzäk style with a hoppy melody and catchy chorus, but its story never goes anywhere.
The finale, “Adaptation,” is a slow song led by an acoustic guitar and piano. Levine’s voice is at its cleanest here, on heartfelt vocals about moving on from a break-up. It’s a good track, but it doesn’t fit with any of the rest of the album. It’s more reminiscent of 2005’s Cruel Cruel World, and it shows Prozzäk’s potential to make serious, meaningful music. There’s something oddly poetic about an album that begins with “Love Me Tinder” and ending with the repeated line, “They don’t know what love is.”
With this album, Prozzäk doesn’t know what they want to say, or how to say it. It sounds as if they recorded a couple tracks in different styles trying to find their new sound, tossed them together, and called it a day. The record is far from terrible but it fails to accomplish anything meaningful. Forever 1999 consists of a bunch of Prozzäk-flavoured versions of grocery store ear worms and entry-level club bangers that already exist. Long-time fans may appreciate the return of Levine’s voice, but beyond that, the album has little to offer.
“Love Fools Anonymous”
“Can’t Lick This Love Thing”
(Featured image: Forever 1999, Prozzäk)