Here's another fine example of not judging a band by its cover (or, rather, a band by its name): I was all set to be disappointed in Chester Copperpot; surely they were snarky ironists, inexplicably fetishizing a cheesy '80s kids' movie (here, a character in 1985's The Goonies), refusing to grow up and wooing the mallrats of America. Turns out, the guys of Chester Copperpot are power-poppers extraordinaire who've been cranking out high-octane rock since 1990 (though as Chester Copperpot since 1994), and hey, get this, they're Swedish. I did, however, correctly infer one stereotype from their name: they may appeal to an adult audience, but they still refuse to grow up. It's that sense of trying to hold onto their youth that fuels their very fine new album, The Kings of Kirby.
Nearly every song wrestles with maturing, and to this mid-twentysomething, the tunes ring true, funny, and sad all at once. "I Care and Think About You Every Night, I Swear", "BBQ Party (Hot in Herre)", and "Life Has Played a Cruel Joke on Me" all are more than just pretty damn funny titles, and sound like what might have happened if Rivers Cuomo moved to Stockholm. But like's Cuomo's band Weezer, Chester Copperpot has a cynical streak. "I Never Dreamed I'd Mow Lawns for a Living" finds lead singer Fredrik Karlsson (see, I told you the band was from Sweden) realizing that life is passing him by ... and also answers the question, "Do they even have laws in Sweden?" On the cowpunky "Life Has Played a Cruel Joke on Me", Karlsson proves the titular case, with tongue firmly in cheek, by noting that his parents made him go to bed early on school nights and forced him to play outside on nice days (again, "They have nice days in Sweden?" Ha). And the meta-joke-song "Whine, Women, and Song" is a whiny song about how there are too many whiny songs on the radio.
The overarching album-long in-joke is that the band realizes they're causing their own problems, parental curfews aside. Chester Copperpot is obsessed with having Too Much Fun. (The press sheet accompanying the album notes that the band formed so the members would have something to do while drinking beer.) "Let's Make Out" is self-explanatory fun; it's an infectious power pop gem, with Karlsson's clean, jangly guitar lines and that secret weapon of musical fun -- the handclap -- propelling the song. "Cute Girl in Class" is more of the same sonically, and it boasts silly lines like "I have to confess / I sure would like some sex / With you" that come off as charming, not asshole-ish.
That's the key distinction to make with Chester Copperpot: in their music, they come off as genuine, down to earth guys. They're always good-natured, always up for a party (or a lay), and they're funny and don't blame anyone else but themselves when things aren't going their way. Being a Swedish slacker never sounded so fun.
In a bigger sense, and as a means of tying this review up and referencing a band that people have actually heard of, The Kings of Kirby is Sweden's answer to Fountains of Wayne's Welcome Interstate Managers -- both albums are filled with toe-tapping tunes that belie an air of regret and sadness. One can easily imagine the fun-loving party animals on Kings' "BBQ Party" morphing into the alcoholic businessman of Welcome's "Bright Future in Sales"; the stuck-at-home blues of "My Parent's Fridge" [sic] echoes that of "Hackensack". Add Chester Copperpot to the short list of talented bands that can make sadness sound like a helluva lot of fun.