Brendan Behan said ‘critics are like eunuchs at a harem; the know how it’s done, they’ve seen it done every day, but they’re unable to do it themselves.’ While I’d stop short of referring to myself as a critic, it’s a valid point, and as much as everyone’s a critic these days, not everyone has the right to be. Perhaps I don’t either, but that’s another pointless discussion. It was submitted, I received it, so here’s my critique.
So, what we have here is a Swedish band who state their influences to be Christian Kjellvander, Woven Hand, ‘darker things’, northern landscapes and present the record as ‘a homage to northern melancholy’. You can tell, too. I could almost hear the record before I listened to it, which isn’t to say it’s not any good, it kind of is, but only really if you like that kind of thing.
What it sounded like to me was like someone had been given a kind of Airfix kit to make the kind of record this is. Melancholy? Check. Lyrics about being miserable? Check. Acoustic guitars picked and strummed, gradually joining the tracks? Check. Perfect harmonies? Check. Glue part numbered 2 to part numbered 6. It sounds exactly as you would expect or hope it to. No bad thing, granted, but once you’re familiar with it, there’s no surprises, no serendipitous errors. No hiccups to love.
I sound mean-spirited and that isn’t the intention, but it made me think about why I don’t like Beck or Ryan Adams. I just don’t believe it. It sounds like musicians sitting around suggesting this bit go here, that bit go there, that sounds like whoever so let’s use it. Like a jigsaw, or a genre exercise. I don’t know these people and I could be wrong, but it sounds like fellas who work in the city decided to put together a record of all the things they like, about all the bands and songwriters they like. Like a covers album but with original material.
Sad, melancholic, Americana, strummed, acoustic, harmonies, timeless. All words overused to describe so many albums like this and this is just another one. It’s absolutely not a bad record and if they make another, I‘d like to see them take a chance or two as the opening one/two of ‘The Mountain’ and ‘Sea Haar Band’ are impressive. It’s flawless in how it sounds and they’re accomplished musicians, but haven’t we heard all this before? Yes. Yes we have.
An exercise in northern melancholy