|She’s So Nice, She’s From Sweden
May Mix part one
Håll Ihop (Med Jens Lekman) - Vapnet
Regular readers will know of my penchant for All Things Swedish (well, not quite ALL things Swedish, but you know what I mean), so it’s probably no surprise to you that I’m kicking off my May mix with a brace of exquisite Swedish Pop. Indeed, it’s all kicking off with a song in Swedish. I have no idea what it is about, but it’s rather lovely. It sounds a lot like something that might have appeared on El records back in the ‘80s, by someone like The King Of Luxemburg, or perhaps The Monochrome Set. Jens Lekman naturally lends an air of delicious beauty to anything he is involved with, and it’s the same here. The rest of this Något Dåligt Nytt Har Hänt set by Vapnet is equally fine, though I suspect that understanding Swedish would be a big boon in enjoying it fully. My grasp of the language stops abruptly at ‘kram’ and ‘puss’ but really, what more do you need to know?
The Vapnet album is out on the excellent Hybris label, which is rapidly turning into one of my favourites. Not least for giving us the genius that is Montt Mardie. Now I recall writing about Montt Mardie back in December of 2005 when his ‘High School Drama’ was rarely off my stereo. Well, a lot has happened since then, and I have had his first album Drama on frequent repeat over the past year and a half. It’s been joined recently by the astonishing Clocks / Pretender double disk set, and I swear that there are days when I listen to these two records and think that if these were the only ones left on earth then I could be happy. It’s not often I lift two cuts from one album for a mix, but this one just demands it, not least because the Pretender set is in fact an album of duets. It is a great concept, and the likes of Jens (again), The Legends, Bobby Baby and Hello Saferide are all in there, making genius contributions. I’ve opted for the opener on the album though, the breathtaking ‘Surprised’. Here Montt teams up with Andreas Mattsson to deliver a heartbreaking paean to lost loves, the tensions of friendships and the ghosts of home-town returns. I know I say it a lot, but Pop is seldom this perfect. Stick this on next to Mattsson’s own epic ‘The Summer Of Speed’ and experience a double knockout punch of exquisite ache that sings with the voice of the desolation angels. Sit in the park, go look at the sky through the apple blossom. See that balloon floating away to explode into the sun? That’s your heart, that is. Isn’t it beautiful?
Meanwhile, over on Clocks, Montt offers up ten slices of himself alone, or at least himself and his big band. And it IS a big band sound. He first started to really explore this approach on the ace Science EP (back when Clocks was going to be called Valentine, and Pretender was Chameleon, fact fans) and ‘1969’ from that collection is still one of the highlights on this set. It’s a crucial key to understanding where Montt Mardie is coming from too, full of perfect references to Sinatra and spaceships. For Montt Mardie’s music is a glorious collision between a lust for a mediated and imaginary past and a hunger for a glamorous tomorrow. Oh, and it’s no coincidence that the cut that precedes ‘1969’ is a terrific cover of ‘Let’s Get Away From it All’. For my mix though I’m not going for either of those two. Instead it is ‘Birthday Boy’ which gets the nod, if only for that killer opening line about reading Doyle. Scrumptious, and then some.
First Class Riot - The Tough Alliance
Now Liz saw Montt Mardie perform recently at the Bush Hall in London. It is a show I would have killed to be at. Interestingly she said that they suffered from not having a full band sound for their set. That is such a shame, and it’s frustrating because there are ways around it of course. I remember seeing Jens play once, oddly enough also at the Bush Hall. He got on stage, plugged in his ‘party unit’ or somesuch (which was basically backing tracks), and he played along over the top. It was magic. Perhaps Montt Mardie should do the same. Or maybe they should just do like The Tough Alliance and mime the whole damn thing.
I understand that The Tough Alliance have caused a certain degree of frustration and consternation amongst Swedish pop hacks by their insistence in miming at their live shows. I think it is hilarious. I remember feeling how the Spice Girls totally blew it when they started to try and prove they could cut it live. They started to play by the traditional Rock rules when they should have been writing their own. Or at least have been happy with the rules of Pop. Unfortunately people get hung up on notions of authenticity, which are spurious at best. Which is why I admire The Tough Alliance and their all-out assault on the Pop aesthetic. Hell, I can even forgive the faux-violence of the baseball bat wielding. Well, it’s got to be better than po-faced Indie whingers gazing at their shoes all their lives, right? Not that there isn’t a time and place for such things, and actually that fool Morrissey did have a point when he went on about how shyness was nice and could stop you from doing all the things in life that you want to, but hmmm. Sometimes you just need to lift your face, look that cute boy in the eyes and say ‘I just want to get laid’. Honesty might just be the best option. I mean, throw your homework onto the fire, go out and find the one that you love, and all that.
But to get back to The Tough Alliance, well, this track is a limited 7” single, and also features on their A New Chance album on their own utterly essential Sincerely Yours label. As Pop singles go, this is the blueprint for heaven. No, really, this time I really, really mean it. Go watch the video. See those dolphins jumping? Classy. A perfect reference to the OJs without ever trying to throw in jangling guitars and mumbling something about hiding your love forever. I’ll love the Tough Alliance forever simply for having the taste and the nerve to do such a thing. This track perspires with barely disguised sexual urgency whilst celebrating the very celestial essence of the Pop moment. It’s like DAF fuelled by jelly babies and sherbert fountains. It’s like Talulah Gosh fed through a mincer and turned into Cybermen. And I fucking LOVE it.
Hanna - Juvelen
Okay, back to Hybris again now for a five track EP by Juvelen. I know nothing about this except that it’s one of those all black discs and that it sounds like Prince if he was ever as good as everyone said he was, with the kind of pounding electro backing which, let’s face it, sounds so much more sexy than all those sweaty funk work outs ever did. ‘Hanna’ is the opening track, and it’s a stormer. “I never told you all of my secrets, but you know I was never lying to you” sings a voice over a vaguely Italo House piano, and it kicks in the stomach like a sledgehammer.
Last in the Swedish interlude is this mix title giving track from the Swiss Boarding School. So are they Swiss or Swedish? I am not really sure and I am sure I do not care. For all that counts is that this is a sensual swish of a record that coasts through the airport lounge like Ingrid Bergman in full Dior outfit. Pianos cut through the air and in the darkened ballroom chandeliers glisten in the headlights of passing limousines. She’s dancing alone in the firelight, hearts and balloons drawn on her eyelids. She’s so nice, she’s from Sweden. Of course.
Chasing Fireflies - The Icicles
I was reading something on a young Last FM indie kid’s profile about a conversation with her peers. They were saying that she liked the pussiest music imaginable. They said that if someone was still listening to songs about shooting stars and fireflies when they were thirty, then the only solution would be sterilisation. Well, it made me laugh. When really the truth is that such a solution ought to be applied if you are NOT listening to songs about shooting stars and fireflies when you are thirty. Or forty, or fifty, or whenever. The Icicles write songs about such things, and I’ve naturally opted for ‘Chasing Fireflies’ from their new Arrivals And Departures set for my mix. It’s a pretty, sugary sweet indiepop record, from the Argyll socks and vintage luggage on the cover through to the fact that they have a song called ‘Gedge’s Song’. The Icicles are like Camera Obscura if they came from the US instead of Glasgow, and that’s no bad thing.
© 2007 Alistair Fitchett