Smack dab in the middle of what appears to be a Swedish invasion, Gothenburg’s Division of Laura Lee insist that no, they are not the Hives. There are no matching outfits, no Pelle Almqvist toting the jive of another Mick Jagger, and yes, their sound IS different.
How different, you ask? In Greenpoint, Brooklyn (an area that seemed like a poster board for economic depravity) on November 2, DOLL graced the Warsaw Polish Home with songs that were strong but not stampede-ish, simple but never sluggish. It was just a great mix of old-school Detroit rock (i.e. MC5, the Stooges), crunchy punk tunes and ants-in-the-pants joviality.
That Saturday night was also a chance to hobnob with Brooklyn’s array of individuals, ranging from the artsy fartsy to punky punksters. At 8:00 p.m. the line outside Warsaw’s dingy brick wall had begun to intensify. Interns/street teams for Epitaph handed out complimentary CDs, 20-somethings buzzed about with cigarettes dangling from their lips, and the bouncers seemed professional and collected. Warsaw—normally a gathering spot for Brooklyn’s Polish residents—had become part of CMJ’s yearly festival, with other concerts in legendary venues such as CBGB’s. This lineup was particularly appealing, consisting of Sunshine, Ikara Colt, the Dillinger Escape Plan and headliner the International Noise Conspiracy. DOLL was third on the bill.
By the time I walked through the door, Sunshine was well into their set. Earplugs were quickly inserted and the drinks close at hand. But it was painfully obvious that the heavy garage sounds of the first two groups—Sunshine and Ikara Colt—made for ho-hum listening. The then-scanty crowd seemed to find more pleasure in buying t-shirts, scarfing Polish vittles and getting a bit tipsy. DOLL finally took the stage at 10 p.m. By then, the ballroom crowd was growing and they seemed pleased with the band’s retro-rock sensibility.
Lead vocalist/guitarist Per Stalberg dipped and dived through the whole show. He, along with other members such as Jonas Gustavsson (bass) and David Ojala (guitar), showed similar enthusiasm through songs like the rockin’ “We’ve Been Planning This for Years”, and the anthem-like “Trapped In”, with rainbow lights illuminating their presence. Stalberg even tried to get the crowd themselves moving, gently pushing the fans to “dance for us a bit.” Most people stood there motionless amongst these titillating tunes, though, turning out to be one of the night’s few, if only, low points. Were these folks too cool to get into the music? Nothing sucks worse than going to a show and inhaling the stench of introverted fans.
Nevertheless, the group continued through most of their second LP Black City, belting out the partyish “Second Rule” and debut single “Need to Get Some”. They even decided to play a few new songs not found on the album. But nothing induced goose bumps more than the short-lived drum solo by Hakan Johansson. It was the conclusion of their final song, “Wild and Crazy”, and each member departed the stage in 30-second intervals. This eventually left Johansson alone, and the audience to experience some ultra-catchy rhythm.
During my walk to the subway, there were no qualms that DOLL came off as the next soldier in the Swedish armada. Tired of being compared to those increasingly swarming Hives, DOLL acted as their own entity, and came away with a certain force that was more present in their music than bodies. Maybe this insurgence of nostalgic rock will fade out as quickly as that whole swing revival thing. Whether it does or not, Division of Laura Lee should certainly be remembered.