No-one could accuse Johan Angergård of being a workshy fop. In the past two decades he’s had a hand in 21 albums. He probably sleeps with his eyes open sat upright at a Baby Grand should divine inspiration steal him from his slumbers. Following the slow jamz n’ silk pyjamas of the Legend’s It’s Love and the vivacious, electric smack of Eternal Death’s self-titled debut, Pleasure becomes Angergård’s third album this year. Even then it packs 24 songs into a trim eight minutes. No wait, it’s the other way round. Eight songs. 24 minutes. Either way you snooze, you lose. Now c’mon ya slackers back to work. Chop, chop!
Returning to the hometown partnership called Club 8 that Angergård runs with paramour Karolina Komstedt, Pleasure chases the tails of 2013’s stylish if schizophrenic Above the City. It’s a characteristically dapper, luxury pop sparkler and one caught in the Holy Trinity crossfire of “Love, sex and jealousy”. It’s also the duo’s most straight-up, synthpop set to date. The timid, cardigan wearing indie of their youth is long gone and there’s no trace of the “Last Night on Earth” Afropop mirth of their inspired The People’s Record either. Just imagine a Hi-NRG “Divorce Days Abba” and you’d likely be standing close enough to tickle its fragrant belly.
Down at ‘Club Pleasure‘ folks sensibly prefer to dance away their heartaches. Basically as in “Grab your gladrags Sister, we’re walkin’ out that door and we are D-A-N-C-I-N-‘”. The propulsive seductress “Skin” should put steam in your stride. A filthy, wah-wah injected, pulsating catwalk prowler with fire in its eyes and bad things on its mind. “Red lips! / Black dress! / Dirty marks on the floor! / I wanna do it ALL!.” In other words, GRRR! The Sally Shapiro sweet “Late Nights” is similarly hot to trot. Glamorous, candy floss lickin’ Italo which shimmies so close you can feel its angel breath on your cheek. “Five reasons to be happy / Fifteen to be sad,” it confesses in a happy-sad haze of pink neon, “Give in to insanity”. Pleasure comes closest though to ripping off its clothes and getting nasty in the moonlight with (unsurprisingly) “Kinky Love”. A soft-focus, slo-mo sizzler. One log cabin. The roaring open fire. A bear skin rug. Candles a’ flickerin’. Several drained bottles of Moët. “All my longings lie open before you.” It’s all over in under three minutes. Make of that what you will.
Where disco lurks, daftness often follows and indeed the “Nowt More Europop” bubble of “Hush” is plenty daft. Big hair, diamond cutting cheekbones, pastel gloves, skyscraper shoulder pads, electric blue eyeliner and an overworked wind machine. Whilst Komstedt berates her man as if he were a petulant toddler, “You’re all too much like your father!”, it’s a convenient time to sneak off to the bar. “Movement” far more successfully navigates the trashy thrills of the ’80s discotheque evoking the lustiness of Hi-NRG vamps like Sabrina or Divine. “Never stop / Hit me hard / It’s modern love”, stomps Karolina like a finger-snappin’ Glitter Queen on the rise. “No time for grey nights / Baby I’m walking.” Viva la diva!
Of course there’s no “Disco” like a “Tragi-Disco”. In the blue corner of Club Pleasure we have boo-hoo banger “Love Dies”. A blubbery bassline cradles Komstedt’s glass heart across a solitude fortress of crystalline synths as cymbals shatter like flying bottles against the walls. “I want to keep the fire burning / But in my arms you’re tired and yawning,” she wails with Wildean wit. Oh love is so, disappointing. “Jealousy Remains” similarly pirouettes across a haunted dancefloor. “Fade to Grey” bass, tumbling toms, squelchy, tear soaked keys and a melodramatic, Garbo-esque, high-pitched chorus, “I want to fade away / So let the story end!” Pleasure‘s greatest, well, pleasure though is the grandiose finale “Promises We Never Meant to Keep”. “Soon we will be history,” it decrees. That inescapable moment of clarity when the heroine must reluctantly unhook the deadweight of broken love and swim back to the surface. “The sparkle in your eyes / It’s the sparkle that dies,” weeps Komstedt before a liberating last kiss, “I think I’m done”. Crushingly bittersweet it’s Club 8 at their most affecting and flickers with all the forlorn fragility of their heavenly 2007 mini-hit “Jesus, Walk With Me”. It’s the rainbow after the rain.
Pleasure is an expertly crafted, cool and clever “grown-up” pop record. You will dance. You may cry. You might even lose your undergarments. But like so many pleasures in life, this one’s over too darn fast. You’ll devour the ravishing riches of Angergård and Komstedt’s latest like a reassuringly expensive and delectable — but teeny — box of chocolates before pondering “Wait, there’s no more?” Only one of this Club’s already modest, eight tiny dancers dare to shake their booty beyond a clock-watching, Cinderella curfew of three minutes. The result is Pleasure delivers a slightly less memorable night on the tiles than it could. Oh but for a late bar with one, nay two more boogies, a few more ‘moments’ within each ‘moment’. Tonight… is forever! But despite the “Kiss me quick, must dash!” rush, in these captured moments Pleasure remains a treat. Albeit an ephemeral treat.