In the long run, album titles shouldn’t matter. Nickelback give their albums cool, muscular titles like The Long Road, which subtly camouflaged the septic tunes within. Radiohead have won over even the hardiest rock critics with titles that are almost exclusively stupid. (OK Computer? Really?)
But the cover packaging of the new album by Bjorn Olsson, matters quite a bit. It’s a self-titled album, but the cover is a crest bearing the image of a blue lobster, so the album is being referred to as The Lobster. That makes this the Soundtrack of Our Lives-co-founder’s fourth consecutive album named after marine life, following Upa, which had a picture of a squid on the cover, and two self-titled albums marked with a crayfish and a crab. These details carry some meaning. They say Olsson is the same idiosyncratic artist who left TSOOL as soon as they became successful, and they say he’s not trying to bust Soundscan records with his new work. They also say, “these records are so odd, and so personal that I may as well package them with something that doesn’t suggest the music inside. At all.”
The music inside is actually spaghetti western guitar balladry, recorded at home for maximum rusticity. I know – I guessed wrong, too. The seven songs here, ranging from nine minutes to 84 seconds in length, are warm, evocative throwbacks to Old West movie music. The opener, “Låt I H-Moll”, begins with a little studio chatter and a strumming guitar, joined quickly by some dramatic guitar picking. A clip-clop percussion that sounds like the approaching outlaw’s steed completes the scene, until it ends and the slightly similar “Melodi I H-Moll” begins. The strumming’s back, but this time the percussion is a real drum and the lead guitar sounds heroic.
That’s all there is to the tracks here, but Olsson gets a stunning variety out of it. “Låt I F#-Moll” is a little more melodic than the other songs, and a lot more pop. Imagine a Lee Hazelwood instrumental track before the Swedish Cowboy gruffed out his vocals. The Sergio Leone-length “Lång Låt I A-Dur” is less catchy, but more layered. Here are the album’s only vocals, some humming and whistling from (presumably) Olsson. And here’s a spacious-sounding track that occasionally evokes some Gilmour-Waters Pink Floyd songs.
In 20 minutes, it’s all over. But the CD has another 59 minutes and 24 seconds left, and Olsson – surprise! – uses them all. The remaining time is given over to “Insomning”, Swedish for “to fall asleep.” This title is actually literal. The preceding seven songs are looped over and over again, in quieter and more muffled mixes, until the CD reaches its technical terminus and shuts off.
Something has to be said for an album that confuses you when you see the sleeve and confuses you some more when you actually hear the tunes. It’s lovely and it’s eccentric, even if it isn’t Olsson’s best work. Certainly, you turn it off wondering what in the world he’s going to do with his next record, and how he’s going to disguise its contents.
// Notes from the Road
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