After releasing a compilation gathering tracks from over a few years, Sweden's Division of Laura Lee are back with another effort. The quartet originally got the break or buzz from other Swedish bands, namely the Hives and Soundtrack of Our Lives, who were coming into their own thankfully. Now, the band of singer Per Stalberg, guitarist David Ojala, bassist Jonas Gustavsson, and drummer Hakan Johansson are upping the ante with more sing-along choruses and tight, garage rockers that recall the Strokes when they were opening for bands like the Doves prior to Is This It?.
This album is not Black City, but definitely a step or four up from that. The opening groove found on "Does Compute" is on from the moment Johansson hits the snare. Building with bass and guitars in the rapid 4/4 ditty, Division of Laura Lee aren't as ragged as previous efforts. As Stalberg says in the press kit, "We set out to do our best and make a really good record and that's about it." It's infectiously delicious as there are no standout moments, just consistently stellar rock songs. The distinct accents on earlier albums has also been refined as they sound more like they could've come from Brooklyn and not around Stockholm. The give and take harmonies create an instant party atmosphere a la Mooney Suzuki. This continues on a lighter rocker called "We Are Numbers". It's almost reminiscent of the Cure in their early years or Echo and the Bunnymen, only amplified a tad more. But the chorus just kills, a Casablancas-like rant that is under the stellar guitars, also comparing itself favorably to current loves Franz Ferdinand. Fabulously primitive!
The hand claps on the gorgeous "Endless Factories" sets Division of Laura Lee on a course that they can't possibly screw up no matter how hard they could try. Simple and oh-so-catchy, the song has cheesy "woo hoo hoo hoos" before Stalberg takes over and the rhythm sections settles in. Here the listener also realizes that the days of MC5 theatrics are done, at least for the time being. Instead, the group seizes the melody and absolutely nails it with a lovable yet reckless abandon. The slower and creepy keyboards on "Breathe Breathe" is almost like a Jesus and Mary Chain blueprint as the hushed, distant vocals give way to a distorted guitar still in the distance but a bit closer than the vocals. It possesses a sixties-era dreamy haze that also recalls Syd Barrett. "I'm your shelter, I'm your shelter / Put your trust in me, put your trust in me," they repeatedly sing. "Dirty Love" has help from the Cardigans lead singer Nina Persson, although the garage sound is quite radio friendly.
What sets this album apart from previous Division of Laura Lee records is that there isn't the notion that these guys are going to let up for a minute, adding filler to the record because, well, that's what's expected too often these days. It's apparent on the shimmering "Loveless" which is extremely difficult not to drool over. "I believe that you are loveless," the line goes as one's leg will not stop keeping the 4/4 time as a sprawling swirl of guitars are laid on top. Think of a great Primal Scream track like "Shoot Speed Kill Light" or newcomers Singapore Sling and you get the picture. You can't help but have a big grin on your face or, for that matter, asking for a cigarette when it joyfully ends in a rave-up over five minutes later. Not quite up to snuff is "Sneaking up on Mr. Prez", a Von Bondies-like romp with a hint of psychedelic, Middle Eastern guitar. It's atoned for quickly on the jackhammer Stooges attitude on "02".
A few more songs follow, but needless to say, Division of Laura Lee have proved that they're going to be around a while. And this is going to be on a lot of year-end lists. Outstanding!