After consuming a kilo of heroin and laxatives that fateful day circa 2004, leaving Bergen on my first tour of Norway, with a freshly acquired album Riot on an Empty Street playing in headphones, I was fuzzily convinced this album was written for me. Love lost, love forgotten, love-longing for a Norwegian boy, love-longing for a Norwegian place, Bergen; homelessness, restlessness, emptiness— all those delicious themes sadists like myself use to cure or call: good pain.
Plutarch tells the story of a man who plucked a nightingale and finding but little to eat exclaimed: “You are just a voice and nothing more.” Plucking the feathers of meaning that covered its voice, dismantling the body from which the voice seems to emanate, resisting the Sirens’ song of fascination with the voice, concentrating on “the voice and nothing more”: this is the difficult task that the Kings of Convenience relentlessly pursue.
And now they’re back after five years, or as they a little too self-consciously sing on the album’s single “Boat Behind”– “So we meet again, after several years, of separation…moving on, moving around…” As comeback lovers of the year, emphatically making the statement that they’re back to woo us or to roost, with their ………..object-voice. Autumn is settling here in Oslo, and I’m walking around the city again with this on my walkman and I’m trying to see if this album can make me fall in love again, or fall in love with them. I’m on the brink, but for sure it’s not the same feeling as five years ago–maybe I’m just more jaded towards love or this band, I’m not sure which.
Declaration of Dependence makes endless self-references (One NöMusic writer even reported the original title slated for this was supposedly Quiet IS the New Loud). Track 2’s “Mrs. Cold” and starts out like Riot’s “Misread”, “Boat Behind” starts similarly to “Stay Out of Trouble” and the last album’s title is the name of a track here, “Riot on an Empty Street”. But unfortunately most of the songs lack the same opening grandeur as “Homesick”, and none of the songs have same Feist’s dynamic imprint lifting the occasional monotony. Overall the recording is much more stripped, a bare room sound– which serves to emphasize the subtle variances in their voices– but also unfortunately makes tracks like “My Ship Isn’t Pretty”, feels more like sitting through one of those awkward open poetry readings, and I constantly catch myself dozing off by the final two tracks on the album.
I’m not a die hard KoC fan insofar any strum in the direction of a song or croon or fart would tickle my tiffle, lick my lips or whatever. I simply allow myself to enjoy the first and better half of the album, even if it melts comfortably in the background like a melancholy acoustical wash. Not the worst thing to accompany season change- I’m a sadist, remember?
So as far as Kings of Convenience goes, I’d say– put away your Simon & Garfunkel comparisons, or your ditties on the rumored personality traits of one particular member aside. It’s passe to like them if you’re Norwegian these days, unless you wear self-knitted wooly socks and regularly sip peach tea in Grünerløkka– you probably love to hate this record because, a) you think it’s wimpy or, b) you think this sounds like a lesser version of Riot. But who gives! This band was never about pushing the limits of radical fingerpicking, or trying to techinisize or technilize those discrepencies in indie-soft. Its something about carrying you somewhere else, bouncing you, wishing and longing between in our a Tesla lovebound universe. If these two voices collaborate again in five years time even as a hobby-project, in incurring great kinds nostalgia, succeed they probably will.