The Legends: Up Against the Legends

The Legends
Up Against the Legends
Lakeshore Entertainment

What to make of a band that purposefully bathes its own bio in mystery and myth?

If the band in question creates a hook-laden pop-music that hearkens back to the 1960s but remains rooted in the edgier elements of the contemporary alternative rock scene, then all the mystery and mythology just doesn’t matter.

Welcome to the world of the Legends, a nine-piece Swedish band whose high-energy pop music makes its debut disc, Up Against the Legends, a swinging, feedback-drenched affair.

Fronted by Johan Angersgard of the Acid House Kings and Club 8, who IndieSpinZone calls “the world’s greatest pop chameleon”, the Legends formed in January 2003, a week after the band’s first gig was booked.

A four-song EP was released over the summer that showed promise and now the band’s first disc has been issued. The best way to describe the band is to say that when the Legends grow up they probably want to be a cross between the Velvet Underground and the Pet Sounds-era Beach Boys, but only if those two bands had been raised along the Mersey and had the chance to listen to the Jesus and Mary Chain and the Strokes.

Up Against the Legends offers a dozen well-crafted pop songs dressed up in reverb and feedback. Opening with the seemingly lightweight “Call It Ours”, which is driven by a steady handclap and a twisting guitar line, the disc has a familiar feel, borrowing openly from the past — guitar lines from early ’80s new wave, backing vocals from the great ’60s girl groups, an energetic rhythm section that would sound at home behind Herman’s Hermits.

Many of the songs on the disc have a brightness and simplicity that give them a familiar feel. It’s as you’ve heard them before, though you know you haven’t. Songs like “Call It Ours”, “There and Back Again”, “Make It All Right”, “The Kids Just Want to Have Fun” (which sounds like a fuzzier Aztec Camera) and the driving “Everything You Say”, which features a harder-edged rhythm guitar and twisting guitar line, had me humming and shaking my head as I drove.

“No Way Out” is a pretty straightforward imitation of early ’80s new wave pop, with its repeating guitar lines and harmonies buried under a fuzz-drenched wall-of-sound production. On “Right On”, Angersgard’s vocals are bathed in a stinging feedback that gives them the same tone as the guitar, leaving them almost indistinguishable, creating an interesting aural effect.

“When the Day is Done” sounds like it could have been written by the BeeGees back before they discovered disco, when they were just a trio of young English lads playing folk music. “Breaking time, Breaking Lines” borrows a building guitar feedback from early U2 and pairs it with the soft vocals of all those ’60s pop groups that were not quite ready to let go of traditional pop sounds.

One song, because it is a little darker, deserves a particular mention. “Your Song”, while of a piece with the rest of the disc, the kind of dark feel and edgy guitar line that would have gotten it airplay on college radio back in the early ’80s. Not only does the song — which arrives early on the disc — alter the tone of Up Against the Legends, it shows that the Legends may have some interesting music up their sleeves for the future.