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Club 8

Club 8

(Hidden Agenda; US: 28 Aug 2001)

Club 8 have the elements that mark the most memorable pop music, from Astrud Gilberto to Stephin Merritt: a sense of style, a remarkable vocalist, atmosphere, melody and heart. Their sound is both distinctive and familiar, taking you back through the years of pop music while showcasing their own personal style. That style is glamorous, yet filled with genuine emotion; they strike the perfect balance between pleasurable surfaces and touching sentiment.

A duo from Sweden made up of Karolina and Johan, two former members of the group Poprace, Club 8 made their mark in the U.S. with their second album The Friend I Once Had. When musicians have a self-titled album which is not their debut, it’s often a sign that they are trying to reinvent themselves or reintroduce their music to the public, yet Club 8’s eponymous third album is not a break with their past. It’s an extension, continuing their own type of music but with even more sophistication and completeness.

The gentle, slightly jazzy and occasionally danceable pop songs on Club 8 are decorated with classy guitar and mellow electronic beats, supporting the downright stunning vocals of Karolina. Her voice is pretty in a very hip, fashionable way, yet it’s also filled with honesty. That latter quality is important not just because it makes their music more than just an item of fashion, but because it helps the stories of love and loss that form the core of their music seem more human, more real.

“Don’t you worry, I’ll be there for you”, goes the chorus to “Love in December”, the opening track. Reassurance through tough times is one aspect of human relationships highlighted throughout the album, along with infatuation, passion, making up, breaking up and, on a song called “I Don’t Need Anyone”, the joy that can be found in being alone. Songs about the affairs of the heart are a dime a dozen in pop music past and present, but Club 8 bring both emotional depth and intelligence to theirs. A lyric like “As long as you’re not with me, I can live with your distrust” is much more complicated the messages expressed in your average pop song.

There’s also a sense of economy and skillfulness here which is missing from any new pop music you’ll find on your radio today. Club 8 can convey both optimism and melancholy in a song, and sometimes do it in an extremely short period of time, as on “London”, which is less than a minute long. The fact that this sort of extremely catchy yet emotionally deep pop music isn’t deemed universal enough to find a place in the world of radio is a major crime. Club 8’s music cuts against blandness, offering superb songcraft wrapped in a stylish package.

Dave Heaton has been writing about music on a regular basis since 1993, first for unofficial college-town newspapers and DIY fanzines and now mostly on the Internet. In 2000, the same year he started writing for PopMatters, he founded the online arts magazine, still around but often in flux. He writes music reviews for the print magazine The Big Takeover. He is a music obsessive through and through. He lives in Kansas City, Missouri.

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