[24 May 2010]
There is something ultimately disappointing about this album. The Amazing tout themselves as “Swedish folk-rock-psych-pop”, which is certainly descriptive. However, when you look at an album by a band thus described and see six tracks listed, you have certain expectations. You might think that these songs will be long explorations replete with multiple solos and strange sounds, for example, since there are only a handful of tracks. This is not an entirely unjusitifed expectation, either, if you came to this record looking for anything like the Amazing’s self-titled debut, where most of the songs stretch past the five-minute mark. But the six tracks on Wait for a Light to Come clock in collectively at less than 27 minutes. Barely one side of a record. If this was sold as a long EP or a 10” record, it might not be so deceiving.
Of course, this says nothing about the music. Getting past the stinginess of the songs on this album, one might offer the explanation that what the Amazing deliver on their second LP is a tightened-up or reined-in take on folk-rock-psych-pop, whatever that is. There is something to be said for a so-called jam band that doesn’t bore you to death with repetitive chord structures and lame solos that only sound good to the musicians sitting stoned in the room playing. Only two of the songs on the album, “Islands” and “Defect”, really let loose, and they do so in a good way. The other four are more structured, providing the pop part of the folk-rock-etc. hyphenation. In my opinion, though, this cutting back takes out some of the prime meat with the fat.
The inteteresting thing the Amazing did on their first album was mix ‘70s-inspired folk-rock with elements of shoegazing—especially in the texture of the vocals. On the fourth track of the new album, “Head Beach”, the Amazing pull this off nicely. An expansive guitar riff buffered by dreamy back-up harmonies provides a nice set of layers for the Christoffer Gunrup’s lead vocals to get lost in. The Amazing are at their best when the vocals meld into the instrumentation. Even on the first album, though, they strayed from this successful mixture into derivative folk territory. When they get too folky, Gunrup starts sounding like Nick Drake crossed with Dave Matthews, which doesn’t quite cut it. Although on the second track, “And it Looks Like Today”, they beat this problem with an “authentic”-sounding folk song that nicely combines male and female vocals in the Fairport Convention manner.
The Amazing have a good pedigree—including two members from Dungen’s live band, guitarist Reine Fiske and drummer Johan Holmegard (who is also part of another Dungen spin-off, Life on Earth!). These good friends show up on the record, like Dungen brainchild Gustav Ejstes, who mans the piano. The rippling piano leads the bongo vamp of “Islands”, a song that sounds like Nick Drake singing over “Black Magic Woman”. The most psychedelic they get, on “Defect”, where Reine Fiske lives up to his guitar-whiz moniker, also proves to be where the Amazing are the most exciting. This song has a good stuttering Neil Young-type riff paired with the patent dreamy vocal melodies. But this song is also highly reminiscent of Dungen—and it doesn’t rock quite as hard as their more famous brother band might do.
This could be good: the Amazing are the softer side of Dungen. However, as both of their albums begin with nice drum fills and guitars come in and out of the melodies with ‘60s psych leads, one can’t help but yearn for the harder side of things. Basically, the Amazing haven’t yet decided to stick with what they do best. It’s a good thing to mix up the heavy and the soft, rock and folk, but they need to maintain their own unique spin on things to make it worthwhile. And they do this, just not enough. Or perhaps not long enough. It’s no good just to be retro without adding something to the mix, even though bands often get sidetracked by how close they come to reproducing the old sounds they love. The last song, the title track “Wait For a Light to Come”, is a short acoustic guitar-based piece that merely repeats the title with reverb-drenched vocals. The repetitive, washed-out aspect is where the Amazing belong, in the region of psych vamping and drowning vocals. But this short song would work better if it was an idea that repeats sounds to sum up a more majestic album. What it really does is stop short.