[29 September 2010]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
Right from the beginning, you know what A Story of Hurt is all about. As for a lyrical theme, well, that title makes it pretty clear. Daniel Jönsson, the Swede who trades under the Danish Daycare name, is lovelorn. As for the music, well, let’s just say that lead track “A Purpose To My Sins” pretty much takes its wordless chorus directly from Joy Division’s “Atmosphere”. Except Jönsson adds more punchy, danceable beats and synthesizers. More and more, it seems there are two types of bands when it comes to indie pop: those that are a bit weird and ethereal, and those that sound like New Order. Danish Daycare falls easily into the latter category. The only real question is how well Jönsson re-creates and refines the 1980s-informed, moody, synth-driven sound.
The answer is quite well. Jönsson doesn’t add any new twists or turns to the future-retro path, but his songs are sincere and effective. And, most crucially, they’re enjoyably engaging and catchy. Jönsson has good taste that extends beyond the usual New Order/Cure pastiches. Instrumental “Doves” is a stately, elegant work that recalls peak-period OMD. When he goes all-out synth pop, Jönsson doesn’t hit you over the head with those cheesy analog synth and drum machine sounds the way so many of his peers do. He simply makes them the bedrock of the rhythm, then supplements them with bass and guitars of both acoustic and electric varieties. The resulting airy effect has a distinctly Liverpudlian post-punk, Echo & the Bunnymen/Wild Swans feel to it, especially on highlight “Red Dead Flowers”. Then, of course, there’s that weeping, flanged-out guitar that is synonymous with New Order, or the Cure aping New Order. You can hear it on “Red Dead Flowers” as well as the so-sad-it’s-pretty “She Said a Lot”.
A Story of Hurt also takes in the initial generation of bands that were influenced by New Order and the lot. Placebo is about as uncool a reference as you can make these days, yet a number of Jönsson’s songs draw on that band’s emotive, mopey, midtempo numbers that start out as ballads and turn into anthems. The melancholic, ponderous “United Soil” has a heartfelt, late-summer vibe, while the straight-on power-pouting of “Second Day In June” reaches its destination via Depeche Mode. Over the top, yes, but so well done that you’re willing to follow Jönsson right over. Somewhat perversely, the more stripped-down ballads such as “Boo” sound a bit ridiculous, not to mention anonymous, by comparison. The title track, a resigned yet hopeful waltz-time number, closes the album out with one of Jönsson’s most seamless combinations of traditional and electronic instrumentation, and of past and present as well.
Jönsson’s singing, in heavily-accented English, makes for the occasional awkward moment. “You’re not dreaming / This is something that is real”, he says on “Second Day In June”, using at least one more phrase than is necessary. Mostly, though, Jönsson is on-key and fairly literate for someone who’s presumably singing in a foreign language.
Frankly, if you get into the whole future/retro, 1980s-revival thing, there’s a lot out there for you to choose from. In the heap, A Story of Hurt bears seeking out, especially since Jönsson is offering it as a free download. In his hands, the future of the past sounds pretty promising.