Music

The Mainliners: Bring on the Sweetlife

Stephen Haag

Yet another deserving Swedish rock band is forced to beg for attention from indifferent American listeners.


The Mainliners

Bring on the Sweetlife

Label: Get Hip
US Release Date: 2005-05-10
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon affiliate
Amazon
iTunes

If you had been keeping score at home, you'd know that I've extolled the virtues of numerous Scandinavian bands over the years -- the Hives, the Backyard Babies, the Wannadies (check the archives). I didn't plan it that way; my only thought is "if a band releases a solid album, I want to tell folks about it." Well, now it's the Mainliners' turn to step into the spotlight. On Bring on the Sweetlife, their debut for garage-friendly indie label Get Hip, the Mainliners -- singer Robert Billing, guitarists Mathias Wennergren and Niklas Nordstrom, bassist Magnus Granstrom and drummer Erik Daghall -- may not boast the swagger of the Hives (but then, who does?) or the pure pop sensibility of the Wannadies, but they definitely make the (ever-lengthening) short list of Swedish bands that deserve greater stateside attention.

Even if (when?) that glory never comes to pass, Sweetlife is still a treat for those who get their hands on it. After a bit of misdirection with the opening title cut -- a heavy blooze number, with a nondescript bar band sound that never re-appears on the album -- the Mainliners kick it into high gear with the second track, "Sinking Feeling". It's a spry tune, and a perfect slice of '60s British Invasion-informed rock. Thank the stars these guys are on Get Hip, a label that understands what the Mainliners are all about. "She's an Overdoze" (sic) is more of the same, with Daghall's hi-hat splashes bleeding out of the speakers.

Having mastered straight-ahead '60s Brit-garage, the boys get ambitious on the album's middle, and still produce exciting results. "Daughter of Dimes" is only 2:46, but it's bursting with the energy and arrangement of a song 10 times as long, with what sounds like a full choir, an organ, a buzzsaw guitar solo and a supercatchy "sha na na na" backing vocal track. Even with all this busy-ness, the song isn't bloated or decadent. Hell, it might even be their best song.

On the blues lament "Dead Mans Hall" (again, sic -- didn't anybody run this album through spellcheck?), Billing channels the Hives' Howlin' Pelle Almqvist (think that band's "Diabolic Scheme"), and the tune is anchored by a great anguished-sounding guitar. The tune's merely okay, but it's a perfect lead-in for the lean, mean, supercharged "Robber of Your Soul". After the ginormous "Daughter" and the downbeat "Dead Mans Hall", "Robber" is a 127-second palette cleanser and the closest the band comes to Stooges-style punk abandon. I hereby award a point to Sweetlife's track sequencer.

Side B is a little less adventurous, but solid nevertheless. The band gets all spooky on "Queen Sativa", with its "ahhhh" backing vocals -- expect to hear it this October on Little Steven's Underground Garage Halloween Special -- but the rest of the album plays it straight. "Lonely One" could be a lost Them track (damn, these guys have all the right influences, eh?) and the chiming "Ordinary Night" sums up the band's upbeat approach: "I won't be singing no sad songs tonight!" (again with the need for spell/grammar check). The cleverly titled "Crocodile Roll" is a friendly stomper, and album-closer "Try to Bring Us Down" (hint: you can't) experiments with a surf rock riff that fits the band well.

As fun and well-crafted as Bring on the Sweetlife is, I'm not naïve. For the Mainliners, the "sweetlife" won't be international fame and recognition, or even a life, as the cover suggests, where the band has the money to create an elaborate banquet on top of one of the band members. Instead, it'll be a life of niche appreciation and a modest, if rabid, fanbase of guys and gals who loves Eurogarage done right. Maybe, in its own way, that is the sweetlife.

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