[7 February 2006]
If you’ve heard of Swedish band The Chrysler, you have probably heard that at home they are considered a country band. Listening to their debut album, Failures and Sparks, this categorization is truly perplexing. Calling this album country music is like filing Radiohead under punk; there may be some similarities, but it certainly isn’t an obvious choice. The beginning of the album is especially un-country. Songs like “What I Must Keep with Mine” and “When Sarah Came to Town” are closer to Coldplay and Sondre Lerche, and even the Ryan Adams-tinged “Holy Holy Holy” is at odds with the genre. Where country music is all about sweat, blood, and rule breaking, The Chrysler’s David Bowie posh-ness and robotic drums can sound about as clean and cold as an IKEA catalog spread. The only question I can think to ask: is the label trying to sabotage these guys or what?
Once you recover from this gross misclassification, Failures and Sparks isn’t such a bad listen. The tenth and final real album track (the disc includes five bonus tracks, a brazen gesture on an American debut), “Yours Sincerely” is the best song on the album, and aside from the delicate vocals, is close to country. It is a slow, bare-bones tune that uses (what sounds like) an accordion to a melancholy affect. The refrain, though fairly senseless, is ear-catching: “Honest to God, I read it somewhere.”
There are not a lot of standout tracks here, and Failures and Sparks manages to sail along peacefully without measuring up to either part of its title. “Holy Holy Holy” stands out as a singable tune, but when followed by the dismal “When Sarah Came To Town”, gets lost in the shuffle. “Revolution #1” is a jaunty Belle and Sebastian-esque number, and demonstrates a possible future direction for this disjointed band.
The lyrics range from competent to interesting, though the music doesn’t usually make the most of them. “Damn Straight Evil”, a Zombies-tinged highlight, features some of the album’s best:
“The adventure that will end your life, /
Blood, sweat and tears and common strife, /
Not a single ounce of magic left to squeeze, /
This summer’s over, now it’s your time to freeze.”
Lyrics like this have the potential to pack a punch, but inevitably get lost in the uncertainty of The Chrysler’s melodies. A little bit of blood, sweat and tears would inevitably help, as would a bit more focus. So far, the Chrysler’s biggest problems are an identity crisis and a few too many bonus tracks. Let’s hope they can pull it together on album two.