I’ve never been able to tell much of a difference between arena rock and hair bands. I suppose the latter groups are a tad heavier, but in the end it’s all the same: wide, sweeping guitar, catchy hooks and refrains, and generally devoid of any substance.
Everyone probably knows one Europe song, even if they don’t realize it. That tune would be “The Final Countdown.” Used across the world by sports teams and magicians (Bring back Arrested Development!) alike, this song has gained somewhat of a reputation. Were I asked to pick a few songs that would define 80s rock, “The Final Countdown” would surely make the list. From the cheesy synthesizer riffs to the Bon Jovi-esque chorus, to the weird and nonsensical lyrics, this song epitomizes all that the 80s were all about. Because of its over-the-top nature, I just can’t bring myself to hate it.
However, my patience for such music wears thin, and by the end of the “Final Countdown” any good will I felt was already used up. Sadly, the rest of The Final Countdown reads as Chapter One from How To Make A Crappy Album Vol. 23.
There is so much wrong with this album it boggles the mind how so many bands of their ilk found success with the same formula. I mean, Europe is behind the eight-ball from the start; The Final Countdown has one of the worst album covers I have ever seen (So Much Hair!). Lyrically, this work is a barren wasteland, chock full of incredibly idiotic ideas. If you can listen to the lyrics in “Ninja” and not bust a gut from laughter, my hat is off to you.
“Cherokee” makes Elton John’s “Indian Sunset” a work of subtlety, with lines like “The white man’s greed / in search of gold / made the nation bleed.” Yikes! Also, usually when a band writes a song about Native Americans, they attempt to capture a tribal sound. Not here, “Cherokee” could have been about anything else and it would have worked just the same.
Even when Europe tries to mine the traditional ballad for a nugget, they fail miserably. “Carrie” apparently was the big ballad from this record, at least according to the album jacket sticker. Besides coming off as an inferior version of an REO Speedwagon song, I can’t figure out what the heck this song means. Is he in love with Carrie, is she just a friend, are they breaking up/leaving each other? I want my ballads plain and simple, damn it!
Maybe when I was younger, The Final Countdown would have been more enjoyable. But at the ripe old age of 20, nothing here is special. By 1986, this sound had been perfected by “superior” bands like Journey, Scorpions, REO Speedwagon. Avoid this one, even if you're a fan of the genre.