Mando Diao: Paralyzed EP

[8 April 2004]

By Michael Beaumont

Alright, I’ve got quite a treat for you here. Check this out: it’s a garage rock band with a sound akin to early Who, and maybe the Creation too, right, and they dress like a cross between ‘60s Mods and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, oh and get this, they’re from Sweden! Man, oh man, what a trip!

OK, OK. So Mando Diao is nothing new. And in this climate, we need another Scandinavian garage rock ensemble like we need a new Limp Bizkit album, so I’d love to toss Mando Diao’s Paralyzed EP in the garbage, and be happy enough to keep my Hives and Flaming Sideburns albums as representatives of the early 21st century Scan-rock explosion. The trouble is, the Paralyzed EP is really, really good. And despite all my attempts and wishes to hate this band and this EP, I can’t because it’s just damn fine stuff.

Here’s the problem. All this rehashing of garage-rock has had us all bemoaning the lack of originality in today’s new rock ‘n’ roll bands, but is it a genre that really needs innovation? Isn’t this particular strain of rock ‘n’ roll all about the songs and spit anyway? It’s about the energy isn’t it? And the tunes, and the look, and the way they make you bounce around your room, and scream out the songs in your car, while you drive way too fast to the bank, or the Laundromat, or whatever other boring-as-all-hell place you’re no doubt in transit to. And it is that very thing that makes us love this primitive rock ‘n’ roll music. So who cares if they’re innovative? As long as the songs kick ass, and they look like proper pop stars, why not just enjoy it for what it is. If you’re able to give in to that mindset, then you’ll find an awful lot to enjoy on this EP.

“Paralyzed” opens the 22-minute EP from Mando Diao’s LP, Bring ‘Em In. Think “My Generation” crossed with an early Stones song. It’s a gem of a cut, with a great horn section and some hilariously arrogant lyrics: “She’s not as beautiful as me / But she’s as beautiful as she can be.” And later on, the chorus offers up this bit of wisdom: “She’s got a bent belt by her side / She’s got that donkey paralyzed”. Well, there you have it. I think we all can relate.

Next up is the Coral-like barnstormer “Chi - Ga”, which gets about ten times more incredible each time you listen to it. Married to a strangely invigorating mariachi horn, the lyrics are no less impressive here, in Mando Diao’s beautifully nonsensical way: “She can smell her next day, but it ain’t gonna work if I cross her mind”. Alright then. Suffice it to say the song is a freight train of majestic rock ‘n’ roll energy, with singer Björn Dixgård giving the performance of his young life. Actually it might be Gustaf Norén, as they share vocal duties and there are no credits on the EP, so hell if I know who’s singing it, but whoever it is, he’s brilliant.

Things slow down a bit next for the beautifully hung over, “How We Walk”. A break-up song in the melancholy tradition of a classic Noel Gallagher acoustic b-side, it shows off an impressive range of not only Mando Diao’s vocal abilities, but also of songwriting. And while the lyrics aren’t brilliant, they are intelligible this time, and that’s a good sign for a band of Mando Diao’s persuasion. A little heart and heartbreak is good to break up the sonic assault now and then.

Filling out the EP are rip-roaring live versions of “Sheepdog”, “Little Boy JR”, and “Paralyzed”. All rock ferociously, and serve as ample evidence of Mando Diao’s no doubt visceral live show.

So there you have it, more god damn essential Swedish garage rock. Sure we’ve had quite enough, but when the music’s this good, there’s always room for one more.

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