Various Artists: Definitivt Femtio Spänn 6

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Various Artists

Definitivt Femtio Spänn 6
RABB, 1997

I picked this sampler up in Oslo when it came out in '97, wholly unaware of the fact that EVA Records (the company behind the remarkably lucrative "Absolute" series of forgettable - and, let us be candid here, downright banal - pop collections) had tried to get the CD taken off of Norwegian shelves because, evidentially, they had trademarked the brand "Definitivt" in that country. Fortunately that didn't happen and the good folks at RABB were able to keep what is a pretty solid disk on the shelves of their neighboring nation's record stores.

At any rate, Definitivt Femtio Spänn 6 admirably collects twenty representative tracks from some of mid-nineties Sweden's better punk and hardcore acts as well as a few quirkier, less readily-categorizable outfits. The first half is, in my opinion, much stronger, foregrounding as it does pop-punk and melodic hardcore. The second half, with a few exceptions, descends into metal and generic grungy stuff. A bit more balance, perhaps, and this disk would be fantastic but, ultimately, it feels too lopsided to listen all the way through in one sitting.

Track Listing:

Track 1. "Theme from Persuaders" (Robert Johnson & the Punchdrunks). Although you'd think opening a punk/hardcore compilation disk with a melancholy bit of keyboard-laced surf rock mightn't be the best idea, you'd be wrong. Robert Johnson and his assembled Punchdrunks are fantastic.

Track 2. "Little Miss Green Eyes" (Stukas). "Little Miss Green Eyes" is one of the disk's better pop-punk tracks. Definitely worth checking out.

Track 3. "Dinner at Ed's" (Stoned). Like many of Sweden's better melodic hardcore bands active in the nineties, Stoned sound as if they're from California. Not that that's bad. I'm just sayin' is all... With super-poppy backing vocals, you'll be singing along to this track in no time.

Track 4. "Let's March" (Abhinanda). The comp's first straight-up hardcore track is typical Abhinanda fare, though I'd venture to say a bit catchier than their average song.

Track 5. "Mitt Cors" (Charta 77). Finally, a Swedish-language song. I've always been partial to Swedish punk and I think the language is actually very well suited to genre. Not nearly as harsh as other Germanic languages, it's relatively high register and palatally-dense phonetic structure almost always lends a softer, more melodic side to what is frequently a heavier brand of punk. Charta 77 uses this juxtaposition perfectly, fashioning a song that is both intense and immediately catchy.

Track 6. "Scottie" (Adhesive). As I have said elsewhere, "despite the song's overt reference to Trekkie culture, 'Scottie' has nothing to do with kitschy American sci-fi. Rather, the song waxes metaphysical, expressing the pain of the speaker's solipsistic existence and questioning whether or not the palpable loneliness he (or she) experiences in "a domestic jail" is, in fact, a ubiquitous emotion spanning all humanity."Despite the song's overt reference to Trekkie culture, "Scottie" has nothing to do with kitschy American sci-fi. Rather, the song waxes metaphysical, expressing the pain of the speaker's solipsistic existence and questioning whether or not the palpable loneliness he (or she) experiences in "a domestic jail" is, in fact, a ubiquitous emotion spanning all humanity."

Track 7. "Pigs" (Saidiwas). Don't let the bits of electronica or the mellow stretches of melodic guitar rock fool you. This is about as anarchistic a punk song as you'll hear nowadays. I'll let you put two and two together and figure out what sort of beings the track title references.

Track 8. "Cold War" (Purusam). The is about as close to metal as hardcore can get and still be called hardcore. What makes the track so cool, though, is the peculiar pairing of pretty standard heavy metal male vocals with those of a poppy-sounding female vocalist. It makes for a really interesting listening experience.

Track 9. "Vem Vegar Tro" (Skumdrum). In a nice little pairing of tracks, Skumdrum's "Vem Vegar Tro" features vocals by one Anna-Lena, the woman whose vocals made "Cold War" such a keeper. Although it is definitely a poppier song, "Vem Vegar Tro" is lyrically as dark as its predecessor, scrutinizing the apathetic and dangerous brand of "no future" nihilism plaguing many of Sweden's younger generation.

Track 10. "Dansa Med Mig" (Coca Carola). Some good call-and-answer melodic hardcore, "Dansa Med Mig" translates literally to "Dance With Me." You just might, though it be closer to headbanging than, say, a tango. . .

Track 11. "The World is Ours" (Separation). Hardcore punk with a bit of grind added to the mix, "The World is Ours" is pretty much exactly what you'd expect from Separation. This is a good thing, by the way.

Track 12. "Symbols and Signs" (Cobolt). A metallic grunge track, "Symbols and Signs" sounds like it would have been quite popular stateside had it been released three years earlier. This is not a good thing, by the way.

Track 13. "Soulscarred" (Burst). Hardcore-tinged progressive metal.

Track 14. "Fren Hofors Intet Nytt" (Radioaktiva Räker). Here's another instance of the Swedish language being perfect for hardcore. The rolling 'r' is pressed into service here to brilliant effect, adding what approaches a percussive element to the vocals.

Track 15. "Laughing Boy" (Rösvett). Fans of Poison Idea will probably dig this band.

Track 16. "Living Machine" (Plastic Pride). Modeling themselves on bands like Refused and Helmet, Plastic Pride sound quite a bit like, well, Refused and Helmet. I guess some people like that sort of thing.

Track 17. "Their Integrity Was All Over" (The Scarred). This is emo, but not the crappy stuff that passes for emo today. It's closer to the D.C. hardcore stuff that got all weepy in the late eighties than to the whiny garbage that Hot Topic makes a fortune marketing these days. Still, I'm not terribly impressed. Then again, it doesn't sound like Helmet or Refused, so that's a plus.

Track 18. "Radioshit" (Mögel). Playful punk with a jumpy guitar riff and lyrics in the spirit o the Ramones' "We Want the Airwaves." Not too shabby.

Track 19. "Proficiency" (Final Exit). Another heavy bit of hardcore, "Proficiency" fits in well with the tone of the disk's second half.

Track 20. "Allmosor" (Live) (DLK). A strange way to end the disk, the closing track is basically a cross between a barroom sing-along and a sixties protest song. Not bad, just peculiar.


Sobriquet Grade: 80 (B-).

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