Reviews of Pascal’s debut LP, Förbi Fabriken, came mainly on one type of website, the kind that ends in “.se”. A few scattered bloggers wrote about the group in non-Nordic languages: English, Italian, and French. Now, one year later to the month, the group is releasing a follow-up. The music has a garage band roughness, nice and loose. There are touches of psychobilly and touches of Britpop, scraps of Elvis, early rock, punk, metal, the Ramones, storming guitars, a variety of things. Galgberget is nothing revolutionary, but it’s full of heart and commitment. When Isak Sundström screams, it’s not a stage-managed stadium cockrock scream, it’s a good, full yell of pleasure. Isn’t it glorious, the musicians seem to be asking, to make this much noise, to be alive like this?
The majority of the Swedish acts that have made names for themselves in the English-speaking world have been poppy—ABBA, Roxette, or the Cardigans—bands that can turn out a good single. The members of Pascal have a pop-like ability to put together a catchy song—something that takes no more than two or three minutes from beginning to end, swiftly establishing a theme, reinforcing it with a chorus, adding a twist, and wringing as much entertainment out of that short time as it can—but that garage texture they’ve got situates them in a different musical universe to the one inhabited by an ABBA. When they cover Judas Priest’s “Painkiller”, the piercing squeals of the original track spread out, growl, deepen, and grow grubby fur around the edges.
They’ve nicknamed their sound ‘caverock,’ and there’s definitely something subterranean about it, something grotty and buried, not muffled exactly, but not polished-sharp either—not as relentlessly brisk as the Hives, even though it sounds as if the two groups might take some of their inspiration from similar places.
Galgberget‘s most prominent publicity photo is at odds with the way the album sounds. It’s a shot of the three musicians by a wooden table with Sundström all in white staring at a stuffed falcon, and it suggests the kind of prim roleplaying adopted by the Decemberists. There’s no obvious connection between the Sundström in the picture, peering whimsically over the bridge of his nose at his gloved hand holding the dead bird, and the Sundström who shouts through the retro rock ‘n’ roll swagger of “Jag Vill Ha Alt” and shares a duet of screams and yells with the bassist Manuela De Gouveia on “Älska Mig/Skjut Mig!”, a song that opens with coils of instrumental thunder and concludes with a squeak of feedback. De Gouveia’s good-girl hands-on-lap pose vanishes entirely in front of the microphone, and blonde Mimmi Skog bashes the drums with a passion that should shake that photographed hairbun loose and send her clips spinning across the back of the stage, leaving them buried somewhere under twists of electrical cord, never to be seen again.
They sing in Swedish, which is a pleasure to listen to, and useful too, because it lets you know how to pronounce the name of the album. Galgberget in Sundström’s mouth sounds something like ‘galba’yet’, with a soft slur virtually eliminating the second G. The intimidating ‘skjut’ in “Älska Mig/Skjut Mig!” comes across sounding like ‘huit!’ I hope that a prejudice against bands who sing in languages that their audiences don’t all understand won’t prevent the album spreading beyond the “.se” and establishing itself on the “.com” and the “.uk” and the “.au”, and the “.nz”, and the “.za”, and the “.br”, and the “.jp”, and so on, as well. Galgberget deserves some exposure.
// Notes from the Road
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