I’m very sorry to say that Club 8’s latest release, Strangely Beautiful, the follow-up to the tender and lovely Spring Came, Rain Fell, is nowhere near its equal.
That LP was one of the best of 2002 — this is one of the most disappointing sequels I’ve heard since Laptop’s second.
It all starts on a bad enough note with “When Lights Go Out” which is a pretty obvious sonic rewrite of some of Club 8’s previous disc’s material. In fact the damnedest thing about this record is that many of the same elements that make Spring Came so rewarding are also here, but with few new dimensions to travel or sides to show.
You do hear a bit more of a Beatles influence (possibly filtered through The Smiths) on this album, especially in “Saturday night engine.” This song hits a little harder here than on the Sweet Sixteen, Vol. 6 compilation that teased it earlier this year, but it’s still a song in dire need of a remix.
To be fair, musician/songwriter/producer Johan Angergard does appear to be trying to let new elements in on a couple of the tracks. Unfortunately, either he abandons them after a promising start or they just sound inappropriate. The very likable flute-sounds intro to “I wasn’t much of a fight” gives way to more standard Club 8 instrumentation and the scratching on “What shall we do next?” just grates.
It’s possible that latter song is something of a cry for help, ending as it does with the words “We don’t know what to do next.” I hope they think of something soon, because there are a few good songs here that on careful listening show Club 8 still have a few diamonds to mine. I really appreciated the instrumental “Between waking and sleeping,” although it pointed up the lack of growth in Karolina Komstedt’s vocals on the rest of the album. And I like “The next step you’ll take,” especially the lyrics, and “Cold Hearts.”
If this was Club 8’s second album ever, I could put all this down to “the dreaded sophomore slump,” but it’s actually something like the Swedish duo’s fifth release. So maybe it’s more like end-of-school burnout?
Where Spring Came turned the head from first listen and has only grown in emotional value in the year-plus since, Strangely Beautiful is, while not offensive, just boring.
Hidden Agenda: http://www.hidden-agenda.com/