[13 December 2004]
What makes a band pack stadiums rather than pubs? What propels them from being objects of discreet respect to those of stratospheric worship? What separates the Beach Boys from the obscure C86 bands of the world, even though the music isn’t stylishly all that dissimilar? I believe the answer is aura—a charisma that displays a poise of triumph—confidence where because one acts worthy of acclaim, then acclaim will soon come. It is this aura that pulls the lid over both the eyes of critic and consumer, an inflation of their respective creative and commercial value.
Swedish rock band Thirdimension have cultivated that aura in their sophomore effort Permanent Holiday. The four members have an air of self-importance that manifests itself in its music. Mind you, it is self-importance that is more portentous than pretentious. Throughout the course of Permanent Holiday, there is an air of “we will pack out stadiums”-type ambitiousness felt in the midst of their music. It is a prophetic gesture that they hope will be fulfilled one day.
This aura is none-so-apparent than in their opening track “Blue on Black”. Drums throb and pulsate as plucked guitar swell in the foreground. These are devices found in the Stadium Rock for Dummies book, albeit employed by highly competent hands. They wear their bleeding Britpop hearts on their sleeves as they enter the chorus, which seems not out-of-place as one of the Manic Street Preachers’ better efforts. When the second verse concludes with “A new disease / Come on please / Now we’re definitely equal” as a build-up to the pre-chorus, I can’t help simultaneously pumping my fist in the air while collapsing to the ground in reverential awe
“Save Me” follows in the ilk of the venerable Coldplay. Students of the game, Thirdimension sing over a repeating chorused piano phase with Bjorn Stegmann channeling Chris Martin’s whispery rasp. The sheer melodiousness of the whole affair compels my right hand, trembling from controlling the urge to grab my lighter and flicking it, raising the flame into the air and waving it side-to-side. Manipulatively wonderful.
“Silver Eye”, the strongest track on the album, is where Thirdimension sound convincingly Thirdimension, instead of a cut-and-paste of their manifold influences. In a spurt of iconoclasm, they appropriate sacred Pink Floyd swirls and claim as their very own. The Swedish “dance-dance” keyboard layers and the watery propulsion of a bassline create an atmosphere of—as their name proclaims all along—another dimension. Nothing like a dose of shoegaze to brainwash me as a disciple in their quest for world domination.
The closing track, “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, is aura-personified. Thirdimension are not gonna take obscurity, or ignorance, or the denial of their true destiny as rock gods. This leads me to the criticism portions of the album. In their bid to emulate their idols, they become their idols. Permanent Holiday is susceptible to the “spot-the-influence” game. Various influences ranging from the Kinks to the Who are found in the course of the 11 tracks. However, in a world where critics lambaste U2 for sounding too much like well, U2, derivativeness is never a hindrance from musical greatness, provided it is carried off with pomp and swagger. Well, remember what I told you about the aura of Thirdimension?
A final complaint perhaps, lies in the fact that the lyrics in the album suffer from “Europeanitis”. From a nation where English is not their first language, Thirdimension’s songs are sometimes guilty of cheesy lyrics. Then again, in a world where rock legends like Bono can get away with lyrical mishaps like “Freedom has a scent / Like the top of a newborn baby’s head” from “A Man and a Woman” on U2’s latest album How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, it does prove that earnestness can wash over a multitude of sins, a quality that Thirdimension have in spades.
And the fact is—Thirdimension mimic Britpop so well that they are better than a lot of actual Britpop bands out there, transcending mere comparisons with their contemporaries Soundtrack of Our Lives and the Hives. With a more focused sound to call their very own and the development of a social conscience (you know, saving the world and all the other noble stuff that mega-bands do), they are capable of ascending the pantheon of the rock Gods, where the deities of U2, R.E.M., and the Beatles-of-yore reside.
And that is no prophecy.