For an album that’s been ten years in the making, Sweden’s Martin Rὅssel’s Don’t Blame Me turns out to be a relatively taut affair. Turns out that Rὅssel is an in demand producer in Sweden and elsewhere and was continually sidetracked by various projects. As he says in the liner notes, “Deadlines are tough but sometimes good, and I had none.” However he eventually had the songs in ship shape order and managed to recruit an army of around 30 musicians (including Marty Wilson-Piper on guitar) for the recording. Despite the plethora of players Rὅssel turns in a tightly wound selection of songs with several of them saluting the bands and artists he grew up hearing.
The album cover is a 1964 snapshot of Rὅssel as a kid with an adult guitar slung over his shoulders, in the background, the With The Beatles album is perched on a shelf. It’s Rὅssel’s love of The Beatles and their like that informs much of the album although he also has an affection for later periods, adding covers of Talking Heads and Lou Reed to his self penned songs. The opening Deal With God is a twinkling orchestrated affair with George Harrison like slide guitar woven throughout the latter half and the fab four loom large on the whimsical Don’t Blame Me which is peppered with sound effects (a cock crowing anyone) and comes out sounding like some melange of Lennon, Ray Davies and Neil Innes (and very nice it is for anyone into mock Beatles). My Eyes is in a similar vein although it’s not a doppelganger despite its smattering of sitar, instead it stands up well as a fine slice of power pop.
The album isn’t merely a selection of Beatles pastiche. Rὅssel does employ the Harrison like slide guitar on Friend but the song is a shimmering and urgent song of regret with a fine corkscrewed guitar slicing though it towards the end. The Party strolls in sounding like one of Lou Reed’s louché pop songs from Transformer while Nothing is one of those songs which evoke shivery European nights with Rὅssel sounding stranded as an accordion adds some colour along with an evocative female voice and, although Rὅssel sounds nothing like Leonard Cohen, one could imagine this number nestled within Songs Of Love And Hate.
Rὅssel visits a darker side on two songs. Jesus Junkie recounts a late night encounter with an addict in a train station and it pulses with an energy and sound not too far removed from Fatima Mansions. Fucking Beauty meanwhile is stark, opening with piano before a motorik drum beat comes in and again one thinks of Cathal Coughlan’s Mansions. Finally, Rὅssel closes the album with his two covers. Talking Heads’ Heaven has a light touch, dappled guitars adding a dreamlike quality, one imagines this is where Wilson-Piper comes in as the sound is not a million miles removed from The Church. Sunday Morning sees the album out and again it’s a soporific delight, removing whatever sparkle the VU gave it, emphasising the world weary bleariness inherent in the lyrics. It’s a fine album, maybe something like Jeff Lynne could do if he had a dark side.