Monday, January 26, 2009

I Was a King

I haven't really followed the Norwegian music scene. From a distance, it appears to be split equally between doom metal bands in Viking gear and bookish, sensitive wimps like Kings of Convenience, who mash Simon and Garfunkel impressions with electronica blips and beeps.

So a Norwegian band called I Was a King didn't really inspire much confidence. Yeah, well, we were all once kings, Olaf. I myself used to dress up as Sigurd the Nearsighted, and slew several dragons menacing central Ohio. Then I started third grade.

I was fully expecting guys with food in their beards and rotting teeth who growled songs about nuclear warheads and Armageddon. What I got was fifteen short tunes high on the bubblegum content and the guitar distortion, a sort of psychedelic Archies. Not that that’s a bad thing, mind you. Unlike fellow Scandinavians Dungen, who employ a similar sonic palette, I Was a King features songs with genuine hooks. And unlike Apples in Stereo and Teenage Fanclub, with whom they share a similar love of fuzzed-out power pop, there is some truly gonzo guitar work here to satisfy the biggest Hendrix fan. Grading on the curve (I’m assuming that English is not their native language), there are fourteen very fine originals here, all of them immensely hummable, all of them reminiscent of the days when The Electric Prunes and The Strawberry Alarm Clock were ruling the radio airwaves. Most surprising of all is the sole cover, “Hard Luck and Bad News,” by the granddaddy of Christian Rock, Larry Norman.


Anonymous said...

Anything like Marching Band? That's some viking-pop goodness if I ever heard it.

And given that my gradually deafening grandparents liked to listen to unimaginably horrible 1960s Swedish polka, loudly, if I remember right, I know what I'm talking about...or maybe not.

Andy Whitman said...

Nope, no polkas. Just loud, fuzzed-out guitars and sweet pop melodies. Some contemporary touchstones would be Teenage Fanclub and the whole Elephant 6 collective (Neutral Milk Hotel, Apples in Stereo, Elf Power, Of Montreal, etc.).