Music

Sambassadeur: European

Sambassadeur is as safe as the Volvos of their hometown in Sweden. Safe is not necessarily bad, just rooted in the light pop sophistication of the early '80s.


Sambassadeur

European

Label: Labrador
US Release Date: 2010-02-23
UK Release Date: 2010-03-01
Amazon
iTunes

There was a short period where Geoff Emerick, best known for engineering the Beatles from Revolver on, took on the role of producer. He had his own “sound”, which did not catch on, but which was indelible nevertheless. Central to it was a bright, highly-compressed sound, with Steve Nieve (of the Attractions) playing highly-figured piano fills. It showed up on Elvis Costello's Imperial Bedroom, but is best displayed on Nick Heyward's first solo endeavour North of a Miracle.

Sambassadeur, whether the band knows it or not, has managed to nail the “Geoff Emerick sound”. On European, this third outing by the Swedish pop group, that sound has been firmly established. The evocation of Emerick's bright and reverberant production and arrangements complements the group's simple, if somewhat slight compositions. The songs are not quite Eurovision Song Contest. However, neither are they replete with innovation or daring.

They are not meant to be. Like Nick Heyward in particular, slightly inconsequential lyrical observation and lack of melodic challenge marry well with the recording and arrangements. In an environment of “darker than thou” brooding, perhaps this is refreshing. If anything, the songs on the album knit neatly together with a fiercely optimistic outlook, reflected in the album cover's leisurely vista from the promenade deck of a great ship.

The first single “Days” is a type for the rest of the album. It is the attempt to embrace a whistle-able chorus with sophisticated arrangement, heraldic fanfare opening, and hortatory tone of the second person:

When you're all alone and on your own

Looking for a way to take you home

When you close your eyes and drift away

Nothing we can do to make you stay

Bookended with authoritative horn and string arrangements, the effect is to reprimand the listener with the wink and impish finger-wag of a Pippi Longstocking film.

The simplicity of the songs take its toll to a certain degree, because the melody of the verses and choruses are not sufficiently strong to dominate the arrangements or leave one with a memorable tune. The strongest track, “Forward Is All”, works the common ballad with a gentle sensibility, and stays in the head better than the rest of the set.

One curious feature of Sambassadeur is the drumming, which with its energy at times sounds like Keith Moon joining the Association. It does a great deal to move the tracks in a way which may have made them even more monotonous.

Gothenburg is the home of Volvo, the safest of vehicles. Sambassadeur is the safest of bands. As young people in particular sweep the dust off their parents' albums of the early '80s, they undoubtedly will see the influence. A safer, conservative sound is not necessarily wrong or backward. It is pop with the symphonic sensibilities of the "Geoff Emerick sound"; self-affirming, earnest, and gentle. .

6

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less
10

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less
8

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image