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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Go Back to those Gold Soundz: Review of I Was a King

Go Back to Those Gold Soundz
by Jay Harsin
Cultural globalization spurred by the development of new media technologies like the Internet was the best thing to happen to Scandinavians since strawberry-bearded Beowulf slayed Grendel. Years could pass without a Scandinavian band ever getting a review in a major Anglophone publication, to say nothing of places on record shelves. Once it was represented almost exclusively by Abba. Now just look at the number of them charting and trendsetting. To name some: The Hives, the Raveonettes, Dungen, Peter, John & Bjorn, Jose Gonzales, Taken by Trees, Tobias Froberg, Sigur Ros, Lykke Li, Loney Dear, the Kings of Convenience, and the Shout Out Louds. I could go on. Add another promising Viking contribution: I Was a King.

The eponymous sophomore effort by Norwegian trio I Was a King continues frontman Frode Strømstad’s love affair with moderately psychedelic ‘90s indie-fuzz-pop and a dose of shoegaze, recalling Grandaddy, Mercury Rev, and My Bloody Valentine. In addition, a contagious guitar pattern emerges across several songs on this new album, apparently haunted by Dinosaur Jr’s J. Mascis. The modernist touchstone of newness need not bring condemnation of this album’s ambitions. Unlike a good deal of indie post-post-rock that’s gone atmospheric, ambient, wordless, African drummified, or has reworked ‘80s synth pop, I Was a King has a slightly traditional aura. The album proudly embraces ‘90s indie-pop movements as an unfinished project worthy of more attention. Judged on its own terms, the album succeeds. So if you’re looking for the next band who breaks ground by combining the oud with theramins, metal guitar, and calypso drums (which, don’t get me wrong, I enjoy contemplating), then stop reading now. Read on...

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