[21 May 2013]
Karolina Komstedt and Johan Angergård’s last album, 2010’s The People’s Record, was a mini masterpiece of “We’re all doomed….aah screw it LET’S PARTY!” cocktails n’ calypso, end-of-the-universe conga abandon. So perhaps fittingly “Kill! Kill! Kill!” opens Club 8’s eighth with a funeral. A ruby red, bleak house hybrid of the Smiths’ “Meat Is Murder” and Julee Cruise’s “Falling”. “You lick your fingers and enjoy the sight,” drawls Komstedt. It’s a hypnotic, harrowing and admirably unnerving reintroduction. Whilst a “Club 8 Noir” record tastes tantalising, “Kill!” mischievously proves the proverbial red herring in the percolator. The rest of Above the City has “Pop Deluxe” on its menu. They’re Swedish after all, they know how to cook “Pop Deluxe”.
Above the City ultimately reveals itself a ‘three-act’ piece, a showcase triptych of distinctive styles held together by brief ambient interludes and much familiarity. Act one delivers crystalline electro pop. “Stop Taking My Time” is a Hi-NRG disco romp à la Nordic neighbour Annie Strand and features, amusingly, a rapping infant. “You Could Be Anybody” is glamorous, sensitive, sugar ‘n’ swollen hearts Italo in the style of Sally Shapiro whilst the liberated lithe libidos of “Run” match the Tough Alliance for upfront, open-armed euphoria. “Fuck it baby / We’ve got nothing left to prove / Taking off our clothes is all that’s left to do.” A-mazing n’ Amen.
The second act of Above the City is more vivacious if increasingly familiar, resurrecting the blue skies, Bossa nova beaches and grass skirts of The People’s Record amongst other old friends. “Hot Sun” is all breathless “H-h-h-hot” serenade, tipsy echo ‘n’ pop dub bass, lashings of tequila sunrise and twinkling diamonds in the surf. “A Small Piece of Heaven” is a giddy, summer shot of disco-soul so similar to George McCrae’s “Rock Your Baby” you’ll be hollering “Wooomaaaan take me in your arms / Rock me baby” long before it shimmies into the sunset. “When it rains I’ll be the rainbows,” coos Komstedt to swoonsome effect. The “Hawaii high-five Ohhh” good times continue on “I’m Not Gonna Grow Old” but, let’s be honest, it’s Madonna’s “Holiday” under a flowery shirt and straw hat.
The final act is certainly the weakest. “Into Air” is elegiac tragi-disco throb n’ ache but is effectively a Tyrell Corporation replicant of Saint Etienne’s “Like a Motorway”, right down to the crashin’ drum clatter breakdown between verses. The cheesy stadia-pop of “Straight As an Arrow” is the album nadir though being a Eurobeat sugar spun sister of Queen’s “We Will Rock You”. The elegant, ‘little girl lost’, carnival of soul merry-go-rounds n’ Wurlitzers of “Travel” and the bouncy pop crunch of “Less Than Love” are this act’s saviours. But as with much of Above the City the skies are alive with magpies and “Less Than Love” swiftly swoops off with the melodic ring that once graced the hand of Fiction Factory’s “(Feel Like) Heaven”.
Above the City is a classy pop record but one which falls a few steps down from the “Apopalypse Now” highs of The People’s Record. Having taken the duo 18 months to record and self-produce (unlike its Jari Haapalainen produced precusor) before, tellingly, “Six months arguing about the track listing” it sometimes feels like a talent lost in a Maze of Pop, Jack Torrance-style. As an album ‘experience’ it seems intentionally cracked, appearing more like three “Pretty, Pretty Good” EPs. Above the City also sounds worryingly familiar in places, sometimes brazenly so. Yet where it shines it radiates “Pop Deluxe”, even if it’s not always Club 8’s “Pop Deluxe”.