[12 September 2005]
Sometimes you pop a new CD into your stereo and it just feels like home. The songs click immediately and you start wondering if you don’t already own the thing. If you’re feeling docile, the familiar sounds might provide the perfect soundtrack for reading your encyclopedia or painting along with Bob Ross. On the other hand, if you bought that new album with the intentions of actually getting hit by something new, then you’ll probably be cursing the record store’s non-return policy. When an album you just bought sinks in so easily, chances are it’ll probably seem boring and hollow by the eighth or ninth listen.
Enter the Jan Martens Frustration and their self-titled debut. If the band’s name sounds Swedish, you’ve just graduated to the next level of music journalism. If you’re automatically turned off by imaginatively-challenged bands who take the name of their principal as their moniker, well then, you’re well on your way to typecasting this group of Scandinavian rock revivalists. Vintage hooks, retro guitars, dusty effort. This stuff stinks of yesterday. There are some catchy tunes, but unless you’re the masochistic type that relives a good dinner with a good belch, then you may want to excuse yourself from the room. What’s worse than The Jan Martens Frustration‘s traces of nostalgia, is their lack of enthusiasm. When garage rock is boring, there’s not much else to hold on to. Even guest spots from members of the Hellacopters and the Soundtrack of Our Lives cannot excite this drudge.
Jan Martens and his undervalued accomplices follow in the footsteps of their countrymen, the Soundtrack of Our Lives and the International Noise Conspiracy. They churn out similar ‘60s-inspired garage anthems, but they lack the ebullience of the former or the tenacity of the latter. Aside from a few snuggly melodies and some pleasingly crunchy guitars, the Jan Martens Band come off frustratingly flat. The listless “I don’t give a shit” vocal affectations grow as tiresome as the repetitive song structures. Add to this zombie scene a total dearth of striking lyrical content, and you’ll wish Martens wasn’t so comfortable in his self-appointed Svengali role.
Even the linear notes point to Martens’s oppressiveness. Along with Jesper Karlsson on drums and percussion and Olof Korlén on guitars, Gustav Korlén is credited with contributing “this & that”. That after Martens provides a comprehensive list of his musical responsibilities. Okay, I only took note of that because I like the band members’ names. Still, despite my fetish for Scandinavian nomenclature, this whole project reeks of vanity. Even the cover art features Martens’s leering mug in all his indulgent glory looming over the other band members, and us. Following this line of logic, it’s no surprise that Martens’s vanilla vocals are featured front and center in the mix. Take “Linger On”, for instance, with its gray vocals and lyrics: “I was reaching for a handle then, and I slipped off, and the people I’m depending on are not enough.” Now I respect the challenge parceled with a language barrier, but maybe Martens should get a grip on his own shit before lamely throwing it at others.
Just because you decorate your house with antique furniture doesn’t mean anybody will come over and listen to you read from your boring memoirs. Don’t get me wrong: you’ll get visitors on rainy days who’ll stay long enough to pilfer through your record collection. The neighborhood potheads will seem real into it too, but don’t think they’ll remember anything the next morning. Like that curmudgeonly artist with the accent who lives on the corner, Jan Martens is as charismatic as he is insufferable. Once you realize all his ideas are from the library and his moves are borrowed too, you’ll want to check out the originators. If you’re in it for the long haul, The Jan Martens Frustration psych/garage history lacks the ingenuity or lucidness to make it a worthwhile trip.