Millencolin: Kingwood

[20 June 2005]

By Jason MacNeil

When you get a lot of discs in the mail each week, publicists often try to get your attention by including press information and background on the band and (hopefully) the advanced album. Just as often you will find a quote from the band or singer/musician saying the following: “This is the best album we’ve ever made.” About 20 per cent of the time it ends up being true, but you can’t fault them for being passionate about their art. That type of passion comes through on this Swedish punk group’s latest offering. “This is easily the most ‘Millencolin’ album we’ve ever made”, guitarist Erik Ohlsson has said about the record. Fans will get a chance later this year to see if that’s true in a live setting as the band is heading to North America for a portion of the Vans Warped Tour. But for now you’ll have to do with these dozen songs that clock under 35 minutes. Oh, that’s for all 12 songs, there are no 35-minute songs here….

The band kicks things off with “Farewell My Hell”, a joyous punk romp that starts with drummer Frederik Larzon, the driving force for the tune. Ohlsson and Mathias Farm chime in on guitars before Nikola Sarcevic delivers the lyrics to this Social Distortion-ish tune minus the rockabilly or timbre of Mike Ness. It’s a full-on punk assault that really doesn’t do anything to make it radio-friendly, which is a rarity these days. Too often you’ll hear the hook, the chorus and the whiney “woe is me” punk rock that waters down the feel of bands like Millencolin and Bad Religion. The bridge only adds to its luster with the group making every second, every note count. If there’s one slight knock it might be how abrupt it wraps up. But again they go full bore into “Birdie”, a tune that is sugar-coated a bit with the hooks being the main thrust of the effort. “Now is your big chance / You got to make a move now”, Sarcevic sings on the glass-is-half-full sort of ditty. The remainder of the song tends to pale with the opening, perhaps because they seem to be repeating themselves a bit.

Fortunately they return to form on the lovely, classic punk party rocker “Cash or Clash” which might be a veiled reference to the late Joe Strummer and his flock. It’s faster than the previous tune and seems to pack punch…lots of punch thanks to Larzon’s fills during the guitar-fueled bridge. Unfortunately the band seems to fall off the railings with the light and almost feathery, run-of-the-mill opening to “Shut You Out”. You hope that the song gets beefier if not edgier, but the attempt will most likely be lost on the listener. That or it may take a second or third listen to feel fine with. It seems that this album has one constant thread in that it almost makes you want to shut it off, but then another nugget comes on that keeps you going. Such is the case with “Biftek Supernova”, perhaps the Swedish answer to Oasis’s “Champagne Supernova”. Hardcore punk and quite intense, the band’s effort is fantastic and airtight. Quick and to the point, the tune is an obvious highlight of the album.

Perhaps the surprise on the record is how stellar “Ray” comes off. Although it has a basic punk arrangement, it seems to take off effortlessly and continues to soar into the chorus. There is no padding here, it’s just a band that is running on all cylinders. Again there could be just one additional guitar solo to flesh things out, but Millencolin quit while still way ahead. That said, “Simple Twist of Hate” sounds like they’re out of their league with the brief screams and wails that make it come off too forced. The chorus is good and straightforward but they take a long time getting there. “Stalemate” is stronger with the guitars weaving in and out of the tune when the duel guitarists aren’t weaving with each other. And the ensuing “Mooseman’s Jukebox” is a heavier, Green Day-ish effort with great results. The title is included in the chorus as well. Wrapping it all up is “Hard Times”, a chunky bit of power pop/punk that should keep heads bobbing along. Millencolin haven’t made the album yet, but this one is still pretty good.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/millencolin-kingwood/