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The Sounds – Living in America

New Line Records, 2005

Do you remember those Geico commercials with the Neanderthals getting all angry about the hint that they aren’t very intelligent?  I thought the early ones were amusing, especially the one where two of them pull up in motorcycles and are approaching ladies in bright leather outfits like a young Michael Jackson used to wear.  The jagged, retro music that provided the backdrop fit the slow motioned commercial quite well so I sought it out.  It was the Sounds’ “Hurt You” from their second album and thus a mental note was made.  Unfortunately this isn’t the album that has that song but, as mental notes and a few quarters will go, I figured the Sounds were worth a spin.

Perhaps this has been discussed already, but the Sounds consist of four lightly leathered and loose men and a blonde chick as the lead singer.  They also utilize keyboards as well as a punk rock swing yet aren’t very edgy.  If you guessed Blondie the Sequel, you are in my head all the way.  Therefore, perhaps unfairly, I will sometimes compare these guys to Blondie throughout the review.  Do the Sounds have their own “Call Me”?  Do they slip into a “Heart of Glass” rap at any point?  Are they in a phone booth it’s the one across the hall?  Man, I love that cover.

In the year 2005 the indie music scene was caught up in a swamp of Interpols and Bloc Parties, so it’s not too much of surprise that the Sounds also specialize a bit in the punk dance genre.  They’ve got plenty of bursting choruses like on “Dance With Me” as well as fist pumping glitz on “Seven Days a Week”.  Maja Ivarsson (the concerned-looking lady on the leather jacket) who does emit a light raspy force that fits well with the style.  However, early on I felt that she easily gets drowned out by the tsunami of volume coming from the band of dudes.   Ultimately, after just a few songs I found that the Sounds might be trying a little too hard to pump up the masses.  If the whole record sounded similar to the first three songs then it would get tiresome rather quickly.

Even though they’re from Sweden, the Sounds do tend to get swept up with American and British stylings of the time often.  However, they do have moments that harken back to the earlier days of music from the countries they are emulating.  “Hit Me!” is one of the better tracks on the disc if only because it doesn’t sound so convulsingly overwhelming with audio flair.  It actually does sound like something Blondie might have managed in their earlier days, which is a good, quick rock song that primarily features Ivarsson’s vocals and Felix Rodriguez’s steady punk riff.  Also “Mine For Life” has a fantastic extended synthesizer solo … yeah, I said that.  It definitely tore things up like a neon light dance club from the eighties.

As one bops along through the album, one gets a feeling that these guys are not just trying to get in your face with their synthe-zeal given their early impression.  “Reggie” proves to be an excellent track with just enough modern trends to make it urgent but not too musically gluttonous.  In fact, it is better than any of that stuff they hurled at the listener early on.   “Hope You’re Happy Now” doesn’t have the strongest lyrics but Ivarsson sounds particularly miffed (if not husky) in what can be topically ascertained as a song that essentially flips off a former interest.  By this time the synthesizers have actually grown on me, so as the Sounds punk their way out on “Riot” I felt that this group may have earned their right to open for Blondie in an alternative universe time warp kind of way.

The Sounds are still making their way around Sweden, so if you happen to be out on that island these days then perhaps you can catch them in person.  If not, listen to a bit at their website, MySpace page, or Last.fm!

Dammit, I just looked around … some other sites have already compared these guys to Blondie!  Blast!  Well originality down the tubes, the album “Living in America” could be considered the Sounds’ attempt at getting familiar by being familiar.  They are still around putting out records that go a bit heavy on the electronically punk air, but I suppose that is what the popular flavor is these days.  Despite the mixed feelings gained from this record, I do believe I should catch up on what the Sounds, er, sound like these days.  I bet they’re fun.

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