October 6, 2006


Melodic Swedes heading for world domination (5th October 2006, The Local)

It is summer in Ireland and an incredible song comes on the car radio. An infectious whistled melody and some rattling maracas casually meander into the vocals as the car winds its way along a mountain road. Two voices begin to sing about the early, tentative stages of a relationship.

There is something very familiar and vaguely Nordic about the whole thing. When the song fades out the DJ confirms my mounting suspicions: "That was the fabulous Peter Bjorn and John with 'Young Folks', currently the most requested song on Irish radio."

Currently the most requested song on Irish radio! The rental car almost winds up floating in a picturesque lake. Peter Bjorn and John are regulars on the Stockholm live circuit. I have seen them perform several times but had no idea that their music led a duplicitous life of its own beyond the shores of this oblong land.

Mind you, it is not the first time Swedish musicians have sprung such a surprise. Last year Gothenburg guitar man Jose Gonzales was all the rage from Galway to Gloucester with his cover of The Knife's Heartbeats. At that stage few people outside of Sweden had any idea that the song that launched a million colourful rubber balls in a Sony commercial was in fact a cover version.

But now The Knife too have broken into the Anglosphere, and you are nobody in the indie clubs of Blighty if you are not tuned in to The Concretes or Radio Dept.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 6, 2006 8:05 AM

So is it any good or not? I mean, Sweden gave us ABBA and Ace of Base, and they still have a lot of atonement yet to do.

Posted by: Mike Morley at October 6, 2006 10:22 AM

The Knife's Silent Shout is also a lot of fun -- excellent camp nonsense. Swedish effetes singing English with German accents. Layers of synthesized irony too myriad and finely-woven to get into. Dark, icy walks around the block for a pack of smokes. Haunting brother and sister vocal duos - tracks to either emerge from a coma to, or slip back into one.

Posted by: Qiao Yang at October 6, 2006 11:23 AM

I know that all us middle-aged white guys have been trained, Pavlov-dog style, to respond enthusiastically only to blues-based chord progressions and guitar-dominated arrangements. That sound -- i.e., the sound of rock -- is to our ears the exclusive mark of cool.

But to still pretend, here in 2006, that ABBA's music was "bad" is particularly primitive. The Swedes have long been masters of melody; Bjorn and Benny whatever-their-names were geniuses on that count.

Posted by: Tom at October 6, 2006 7:08 PM