Music Reviews

The Sounds

Living in America

New Line

You can read the rest of this review – and I hope you will – but I’m going to tell you right now, this album is kickass. I’m infatuated, and I highly recommend you clicking on the Amazon link that should be over to the right there and picking up a copy.

You want more? Okay.

Interpretations and reinterpretations of the standard elements of dance-rock rescue The Sounds from the trap of becoming pastiche snapshots of other songs and bands. Made up of Maja Ivarsson on vocals, Felix Rodriguez on guitars, Johan Bengtsson on bass, Jesper Anderberg on synthesizers and Fredrik Nilsson on drums, The Sounds come from Southern Sweden and formed around 1999.

If records still had sides, the first side of Living In America would be a candidate for best side ones of all time. I haven’t so immediately enjoyed a band as much as this in months – they might even redeem Sweden for their part in fostering the hair-metal/arena rock band Europe.

From the powerful “Seven Days A Week” to the quirky synth figure, straight-ahead drums and strummed guitars that drive “Dance With Me,” the first two songs alone enchanted me. Then the title groove (which is, by the way, not a cover of James Brown’s 1986 top-five hit penned by Dan Hartman) kicks in. All buzzing guitars, washes of synthesizer, and throbbing drums, this is danceable rock at its most basic and most effective.

That sound mixes with power pop easily on “Hit Me!” followed by the skittering, hollow synth sequence that speeds “Mine For Life.” Despite its title, “Rock ‘N Roll” is rock ‘n roll mainly in the sense that everything from Junior/Senior to Candy Flip can be considered rock ‘n roll; attaching flash electronics to atmospheric drumming, it’s quite splendid.

If “side two” does not contain as many gems, neither is it all filler, the poppy “Reggie” and rocky “Hope You’re Happy Now,” especially. This band is overwhelmingly propulsive, sounds blissfully free of tongues-in-cheek, and the feel is of a hot, sweaty performance of cool rock, like handmade, manually operated robots.

This is driving, 1980’s-type rock ‘n roll with an obvious connection both visual and sonic to groups like Eurythmics and the Go-Go’s, even down to the art direction and design of the accompanying foldout. Songs like (the unlisted bonus track) “S.O.U.N.D.S.” do owe an obvious debt to new wave at its most video-ready. Vocalist Maja looks like the issue of a gay marriage between Deborah Harry and Sara Gilbert. Tell me that doesn’t prick your curiosity.

Will they hold up well in 15 years? Who knows? Who cares? Future preservation isn’t the point of records like this. According to the band, it’s “the future of rock history.” I’ll buy that. And in case I haven’t made it clear, you should too. Get it? Got it? Good.

The Sounds:

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