Living in America
Heard of The Sounds? Why not, you feel like asking when you hear this album, because it's full of songs which have all the character of big pop numbers. But they're foreign you see, Swedish in fact. And as a guitars and synthesizer band, they're at one and the same time one of a multitude of similar acts, and in the UK, not the favoured type of act for the top of the charts.
This is an enhanced cd, which usually means a video in addition to the standard set of tracks; but this disk is packed with goodies. There are three videos, for Seven Days A Week, Living in America, and Hit Me; computer screensavers & wallpaper, a couple of bonus tracks, and a photo gallery. Some of these don't really amount to much to be honest, but you're still left with a feeling of a lot there for the money.
Here's a stupid thing: I took little interest in finding this album at first, just because of the title. I thought it'd be another of those vacuous yearnings for the film fantasy lifestyle, but it isn't that at all. It's actually, We're not living in America But we're not sorry etc. Apart from a reference to teenage porn stars, that's about as far as the discussion of America goes.
The music is brash, driving, noisy pop. Living in America is good, though my personal favourites are Seven Days a Week, Hit Me!, Hope You're Happy Now and Mine For Life. Hit Me! despite the title refrain, which does bother me. Yes, I know perfectly well it doesn't mean Hit me, any more than Britney Spears did singing Hit me baby one more time, and anyway Maja isn't wearing a schoolgirl outfit. But there are a lot of idiots, you know.
The album is a succession of catchy songs, mostly about simple teen stuff. It's certainly had a lot of polishing in the studio, but the videos suggest they work up a good sweat in live performance. Any subtlety? Maybe not. But eg. I like Mine For Life because it does manage a bit of development of its musical theme. And Maja delivers a top quality Oo - oo - ooh. There are some decent slower songs; Rock'n Roll is a very nice almost melancholic example, surprisingly, considering the title. By the way, one of the 'bonus songs' is a fairly useless remix of this.
You have to talk about Maja Ivarsson, who's a perfect front for the band. She's engagingly hyperactive and belts it out in a distinctive throaty way, and a much more English accent than you get with most of these Swedish bands, who usually sing in ersatz American. But Maja could have recently come back from a few weeks in Walford. There is one thing, which will either grate with you or become quite exciting, and that's her Ha! (with the occasional Ho!). You get a lot of that, especially as the record goes on. She's definitely not going to allow you to forget her.
You can listen to this cd and think the lyrics are laughable, but you'll find yourself humming them later. They really want to whip up a crowd. Whether it's the kind of sound that would do it here I wouldn't like to say, but the kids would get it. Most of the songs have an anthemic flavour. The last song is, appropriately, Riot. No, it's not the kind of riot the Clash would have organised, it's rather more tame, but even so, they're dedicated to not letting anyone sit still, and to making them join in.
So maybe the lyrics are clichéd and cheesy, and the music breaks no boundaries; but the band are cheerful extroverts and grab your attention. This is an album for parties, and The Sounds are a lot of fun.
31 March 2004