Knockout Punk with an upright bass!
Sweden has brought me many decent bands, and along side L.A. there is no better place to find dirty Rock’N’Roll. And whilst I will not mention the quartet that brought us many a catchy tune that is currently slaughtered at your local karaoke bar, singing about money, Waterloo and thanking someone for the music, there was also the band Europe, that brought us one of the most catchy keyboard ‘riffs’ in the space-influenced Rock song in the 80’s, the cute dimpled female lead-singer of The Cardigans that asked us to, “Love me, love me,” for which as a teenager, I for one, was more than willing to comply. Then we had Backyard Babies blasting out their brand of dirty rock that somehow out lived the other rock bands of that time that fell in the wake of Messers Cobain and Vedder, as they took on the world with unwashed hair, lumberjack shirts and self-loathing. Hardcore Superstar, that despite popular belief wasn’t a band lead by Jenna Jamison or Traci Lords, had a Sleazy edge to a hard rock basis, that through future albums twisted in psychedelic and 70’s Rock, with an Areosmith-esque Blues’n’Roll and an ejaculation of sleaze. We’ve then had many bands from The Helicopters, Bombshell Rocks & The Hives, to The (International) Noise Conspiracy, Millencolin, & Franky Lee…
So there is the history folks, and my apologies for all of those great bands I’ve missed. Here with The Knockouts what we get is The Backyard Babies with a Rock’n’Roll leaning, splashing in the stripped down Rock sound of The Gaslight Anthem, and some cheeking flashes of Punk. First song, ‘Head For The Hunted’ has feverish riffs that drip from the guitar before singer/guitarist Johan Frandsen’s vocals kick in with the same raspy, whiskey-soaked voice as that of Backyard Babies’ Nicke Borg, and this is therefore leading to obvious comparisons to the aforementioned band. ‘Under The Light’ has a rock swagger to it and the rhythm section of Ted Jergelind on drums, and the added coolness of Ken Stone’s upright bass, pull things together nicely.
I’ll be honest, I stumbled over the band on MySpace, and it was the next song, and lead single, ‘A Lie Like Natalie’ that was the first song that I heard, and it hooked me straight away. It’s an instant anthem that has guitars that are a little Surf-Rock, and with the upright bass it has the coolness of a Rock’n’Roll song, with the grit and speed of Punk Rock. Great stuff. Next song, ‘Queen Of The Underground’ starts with some nice melodic guitars and builds into a song with a catchy chorus. Then we have the deep vein of Punk pulsating through in the thoughtful lyrics of, ‘The Chimneys Of Chemnitz’ which talks about the German city as the scars of war remain there for all to see. The words proclaim, “Bricks and glass all smashed to pieces // And bullet holes in the concrete walls // There’s no place for us in this city // But to say goodnight took us all night long…”, Musically the song is Punk Rock’n’Roll, with the vocals spat out, and the tempo at a breakneck pace.
‘Faith Avenue’ is one of those instant classic tracks with chugging guitars and pounding drums. The construction of the song is simple and hugely effective, and with the added harmonies popping up unexpectedly it’s pure Punk Rock joy! This then goes to the slightly Country-influenced jig of, ‘Ever Bee Hurt’ that could’ve easily been penned by the likes of Chuck Ragan. It’s a nice foot-tapper, with the lyrics asking, “But what are the kids gonna say? // When I tell them that you ran away // feeling hurt”. Whilst the foot may well have a break from being fully on the gas, this is not a slow-filler of a track, but a nice change of direction that is still quick in tempo, but stripped down musically. Things then return to full throttle in, ‘Another Second…’ as Johan shouts out, “So wipe off Saturday’s nose bleed // Cuz you’ll never see the end of the war!” whilst we have some great crunching guitar riffs. This is gritty Rock at it’s best, full of sweat, tears and the metallic taste of blood.
Once again the style is shuffled in the pack and what we get dealt is a slice of Rockabilly-Swing with brass, and the deep plod of the upright bass, with shuffling drum-beats, and the slightly fuzzy vocals: it reeks of cigars, and hard liquor, whilst sparkling light a diamond through the blue smoke of an exclusive club. Then just in case you were still not sure where this band hail from we get the message in, ‘Streets Of Stockholm’ in the speedy-quick gallop of a track as they claim Stockholm as their own. ‘Time And Motion’ keeps the foot firmly to the floor as the album draws to a close, and there is just time for the slow final song, ‘Here’s A Song’ for us to catch our breath, however this even speeds up turning into a gang-chanting song in the end showing that this band are unrelenting, fun and musically exciting.
Some albums, especially in the Punk genre, can have a couple of good songs and a bunch of mediocre fillers, however with, ‘Among The Vultures’ you have a great album that keeps the rough-around-the-edges feel which is important, with a slight musical twist, and lyrical meaning. Basically, the album is, if you don’t mind me saying, a knockout!