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Love Is All

(3 Mar 2007: The Factory — Enmore, AUS)

I knew something was wrong when the door staff seemed far too friendly. I’ve never had a security guard call out from across the street to give me parking advice. After we’d climbed the stairs to the new Enmore venue, The Factory, I realized what was going on: no one had showed up for the show. Twenty or so punters, ranging from the very young and hip to the very old and frumpy, had scattered themselves around the over-large venue in an attempt to make the space seem at least somewhat inhabited.

Flamingo Crash were bringing their set to a close, and the crowd was polite, if not enthusiastic. The band does a good bit of waning punk-funk, and brought enough energy to at least sustain my interest. I was just starting to enjoy their sound when they finished their set and made way for Belles Will Ring.

I ran into a friend after the Belles’ set, and all she could say was, “Do they think it’s still the ‘90s?” I felt a little more charitable, and let myself get lost in their more psychedelic moments. That said, there weren’t enough such transcendent tones to sustain me through the entire set, and I found myself becoming more impatient, wanting, no dying, for a little Love.

In the interim, the crowd had swollen out to around 100 people, making the venue a little less desolate by the time Love Is All took to the stage. The band are Scandinavian-cute and just as polite as can be, but that illusion vanishes the minute they unleash their noisy, jarring take on ‘50s girl-group pop.

Dancing in the living room,
light supplied by the moon.
Things I’ve said but shouldn’t;
tricks I’ve tried but couldn’t.

I know it’s lame to quote a band’s lyrics in a review of their show, but there you are. When I listen to them at work, Love Is All make me want to scratch lyrics into my desk like a bored-to-tears high-school kid waiting for the bell. Their MySpace page lists the band’s influences as “misunderstandings” and says that they sound like “confusion.”  Far from being just indie-band wank, this is incredibly accurate indie-band wank. Now that I’m old, cynical, and jaded, very few things get to me. Love Is All is one of them, misunderstandings and all.

Live, the band is tight yet somehow willfully shambolic as well, creating high-energy pop that’s both sweet and violently sludgy. Josephine Olausson is a magnetic front woman who is able to encompass both sexy and messy without falling apart. She’s the perfect focal point for a group whose music borders on incoherence while at the same time drilling a tune-shaped hole in your head.

Moreover, Love Is All deserve a special mention for resurrecting a long-dead relic of ‘80s rock. After the atrocities that Kenny G committed using the instrument, I never thought I’d learn to love the saxophone again. Trotting out their fair share of inspired brass, Love Is All restored my shattered faith in this mainstay of the wind section, probably because they know it should be used as an accent and not as a focus.

It’s the cliché of the season, but Sweden is punching above its weight lately, producing a whole range of truly great musicians. From The Knife through to Jens Lekman, the country that reputedly has the world’s highest suicide rate keeps churning out the modern-day classics—and Love is All are leading the pack. Who knows, maybe they’re atoning for Abba?

Tagged as: love is all
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