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Johnossi – Self-Titled

December 14, 2009 Leave a comment

The Control Group, 2007

I’ve never been to Sweden nor do I know much about the country except for the bikini team (thus, dating myself), but the country has proven over the past decade that they can deliver some great music.  I’m sure there are many indie acts to back up this declaration, but the ones that come to mind for me are the Sahara Hotnights, the Hives and, er, Abba.  My only worry is that, if I decide to act on this appreciation for Sweden and opt to visit the country, I’ll accidentally go to Norway or Finland instead.  Hey, I’m a math guy, I can’t spend the idle braincells to actually remember which is which on a map … but I do feel the shame.  Regardless, the duo of Johnossi hails from Sweden and are making it very difficult for anyone to get confused about which country is delivering the most rock n roll these days.

Comprised of a guy on the drums and a guy busily doubling up on vocals and guitar, Johnossi has the appearance of a usual indie band but turn out to be a little more out of the amps.  Following the volume of other duos like the White Stripes and Jucifer as well as the cool vibe of the Black Keys and the Kills, Johnossi’s songs have what could arguably be described as more accessibility and catchiness than any of those previously mentioned bands.  John Engelbert’s vocals are very listenable, for they neither irritate nor do they come across as flimsy.  His clarity and force are an excellent complement to the noisy compositions as well as the softer, pensive tunes.  The rapid, creative drumming of Oskar Bonde makes all of the songs more interesting to listen to than what might be basically expected from the lovely Meg White, so this collective truly has much going for it in terms of potential and craft.

As for the songs themselves, despite a few lulls it’s very apparent than Johnossi aren’t going to put anyone to sleep with cryptic balladeering or curious instrument solos.  “The Show Tonight” started off in such a way that it made me think that these guys really were just another indie rock band.  However, about a minute into the song I realized they were much louder than expected.  This built up into the excellent bombs away rocker of “Execution Song” that illustrates a difficult heartache.  Even Swede rockers can be softies.  “There’s a Lot of Things to Do Before You Die” is another exciting number that Engelbert aggressively yet despairingly sings regarding the anxiousness of getting out there and progressing with one’s life.  It’s gets a little slower in the middle with “Family Values” as one of the few quite tunes of the record, only to turn it back up into a real rouser in “Press Hold”.  I really do think their louder songs of the album sound the best, for even if Engelbert can show that he can be sensitive, I’d rather the group punch their way out of whatever emotional distress they’re in.

For a debut record I think Johnossi have proven that they’re a really interesting rock n roll act with the combination of songwriting and muscle.  They did manage to put out another record that didn’t turn out to be as good as this one, but that’s the way it goes sometimes with the sophomore effort.  What is great to know is that, unlike the usual bands I write about here, Johnossi is still together!  Whoa, wow, imagine that.  As long as you have your travel globe handy you may even have yet another reason to visit the wonderful, hard rock land of Sweden.  The other reason?  Well …

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