This isn’t really my thing; it’s an Oslo thing. And it’s my first time reviewing a band where I gotta tiptoe and use my indoor voice. Forthright impudence almost seems like it’d offend an entire national consciousness or institution, as revered as they are. But let’s not forget- Oslo’s music scene is the most comfortable place in the world. No political suffering, no industrial labor strikes, and no real equivalent to the dole. Hence, dozens of well-dressed boys running bars amuck and feeding off cultural-grant breast milk, or the titties of the finest groupies you’ll ever see.
No matter how disparate your black metal band A is from shoegaze band B to Top 40 act band C, “we’re social equals” so hey, let’s all hold hands, and let’s be sure to do it on TV. Norgs often blur this crucial distinction between “style” and “fashion”. It’s like the difference between having Hepatitis B or C. Some ailments you can be born with like a genetic inclination. Style is one’s raw talent, however bizarre or mutant, possessed and created only by you. Whereas fashion, like Hepatitis C, you can catch from any motherfucker.
The obvious nods by Madrugada cohorts onwards to Blixa Bargeld and Nick Cave fits extremely well into rich, dark and brooding Scandinavian territory, and has had the self-perpetuated effect of mounting them in a tiny, yet hierarchical scene as gods. But if The Bad Seeds have done it already, is the simulacrum just another fashion? The blues noir motif encompasses everything aspired in an artist’s life — glorified isolation, mystery, sexual energy, freedom. I remember my monumental realisation when Nick Cave‘s “God is in the house” DVD first came out. It was a signal of the times; the inexorable musicianship of this group of MEN turning something deeply of themselves into an awe-inspiring and transcendentalizing performance. The essence of “soul”.
Soul is definitely not something you can just copy, it’s not like you can hire a bunch of gospel-singers and assume you’ll get that effect. My impression of this album is in fact, soul-searching, which is not to say it ain’t solid. It’s more like wandering and jamming in the key of retro-blues. At times, it does feel so grown-up and sterile I begin imagining folks in V-necked sweaters listening to the album in their living rooms on designer couches, hi-fi stereo systems and tons of high-end drugs.
But by solid, I really mean perfect. You gotta hand it to them, a total self-awareness shines through; they know who’s gonna try to get a piece of ’em, so they’re armed with deadly ammunition. Pristine production, fantastic percussive elements building gigantic drones, and the excellent saxophone-playing is a goodnight cherry on top. My favourite tracks, “I’ve been watching you (night and day)” has an infectious boogie, like Ethiopian music from the Sixties, Tilahoun Gèssèssè, Mulatu Astatqé, etc. and “After party killer” has a Bowie-air to it that’s epic, classic and hit-worthy. In fact, most of these songs are.
But back to what I was sayin’, KKKMO‘s not exactly my thing. So why the 9? This is not a revolutionary 9. This is not a 9 for alienated subterraneans. This is a 9 for the masses. As a reviewer I tend to detect the moment in which my pure unadulterated love for music is betrayed. In this case, the flow of the album runs like butter, the tracks are easily digestible and honed to the Nordic ear. After being frustrated by many new albums of late, hearing a record that’s so un-objectionable and on a higher level of musical professionalism makes me daresay I’m not allowed to object. So I do as any humble reviewer would. Give it a 9, quietly put it back on the shelf, blast “Transilvanian hunger” and make myself a cup of tea.
(Originally published by It’s a Trap! Scandinavian Music Journal on Nov 14, 2011.)