When I say to you, “Bulgaria,” what do you think of? The Valley of Kings? One of our few allies in Iraq? Future home to Russian reactors in their second nuclear power plant?

Of course not, you don’t think anything about those things; because it’s better than even money you don’t know anything about Bulgaria. I didn’t — only learned those tidbits by Googling. So … a Bulgarian pop/rock band? Sure, why not? Although no one could blame you for thinking you know what to expect, and what the hell, you’d be part right. Nevertheless, I was ready in my nationalist way to dismiss them, if not for their nationalities than for their CD tray and insert pictures–they don’t half look like a bunch of overly serious twats.

But I am nothing if not fair. And fairness dictated I gave them a listen before letting slip the dogs of criticism.

Something happened. Crap. I liked it.

Slang plays music that will never be called groundbreaking. But it’s the kind of music which, if it’s to be done, it’s best if it’s done well, and Slang does it well. In fact, all the parts are well played, though singer Dimitar Ekimov, with his soft-but-scratchy vocals, flirts with sounding like a parody of Sting at times.

Slang’s biggest weapon though is guitarist Peter Glavanov. He slips neatly from southern rock band strumming (“I Can Feel You”) to a bizarre synth pop-British folk hybrid (“After All…”) to chicken-scratch soul (“Celebrity”). His fluid, jazzy licks on several songs are also most welcome.

“Celebrity” benefits most from the poppy if sloppy horn lines played on a few tracks by one Kril Makedonski (through the virtues of double-tracking). Why his last name doesn’t end in “ov,” I couldn’t tell ya — everybody else’s in this band does.

Now to the songwriting: even allowing for the fact that English is not the band’s first language (and in fact this CD is also available in their native tongue), there’s just no reason to pay it much heed. The song titles are cringe-worthy clichés, the lyrics completely unmemorable. But, some bands’ material is meant to be pored over, and some is just meant to give the listener a good time. Blue does the latter, almost entirely on the strength of its always interesting performances.

The album opens with the ballad “The Wind Of Your Dreams” (see what I mean about the titles?). This song makes surprisingly effective use of a three-note keyboard riff (by Kalin Petrov) looped throughout the song. A track like “Flash Of Light” (again, yeah, I know–remember: Bulgarian) recalls everyone from Duran Duran to Tower of Power, and is also the one I would most expect to hear on the radio, by no coincidence at all.

Cheap thrills in disassociated but superior arrangements for the clean living jungle caveman, that’s what this offers. And if there’s little chance Slang will be remembered into the next decade, there is more to them than meets the eye. There’s just not much more. A serious music fan looking a sort of conversation-piece (“now here’s an interesting band–they’re Bulgarian, you know”) will want to have this album. Besides, what else are you gonna listen to? Ashlee Simpson? I think not. You pays your money and you takes your choice, and what can I say, this clicked with me.


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