I’ve got a confession to make—one that won’t surprise anyone who has ever read my reviews before—I’m a major popaholic. And nothing feeds my addiction better than Swedish pop, except perhaps the thousandth playing of the Housemartin’s London 0 Hull 4. For the uninitiated in this little, global cult of pop worshippers, I’ve got a tip. There’s a hell of a lot more to the land of Volvos and great graphic design than just the bloody Cardigans. They’re fine, but dozens of far better bands remain virtual unknowns on this continent. I urge you to run to your local indie record store and look for anything by The Merrymakers, Eggstone, The Wannadies, and Happydeadmen.
Happydeadmen are not a goth band despite their odd name. Just as a side note, what’s with “death” names for Swedish pop bands? There’s the aforementioned Wannadies too (who did receive a stateside release last year that I highly recommend). Perhaps it’s their sense of bitter irony—a way of acknowledging that a dark edge can exist even in pop. Anyway, this quartet from a small burgh in Sweden is relentlessly jangly even though they often pen ironically maudlin lyrics. They’ve been called the Swedish Smiths, which has some truth in it. Jan Hedin’s vocals occasionally possess a smooth vulnerability and cheery acceptance of gloom that certainly bring Morrissey to mind. But there’s a lot more jangle pop in their sound and they’ve obviously been playing their Housemartins records as faithfully as me.
Nothing on this disc revels in glorious misery, while sounding so absolutely gorgeously appealing, as “Live Lies Bleeding” with its country and western, mourning, steel pedal guitar and plaintive harmonica. It doesn’t take this long (the sixth track) for After the Siesta to get you. You’re trapped from the first notes of the first song “A Lovesong.” I don’t often write about imports because they’re so ridiculously expensive and often hard-to-get unless you’re lucky enough to live near a great record store. But if you dig Britpop, the Smiths, or just flat-out great tunes, you’d be hard pressed to spend your money any better than this.