PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Music

The Ark: Prayer for the Weekend

The Swedish band's fourth album takes everything that was great about last year's State of the Ark and supersizes it, a gluttonous allowance by a band that has every right to have the world eating from the palm of its hand.


The Ark

Prayer for the Weekend

Label: Roxy
US Release Date: Available as import
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon
iTunes

One man's sacrilege is another man's salvation. For the Ark, the Swedish glam- and disco-friendly pop band of bubblelicious proportions, salvation is found in the payoff of a pop song's hook, and prayers are reserved for secular things: all-night euphoria, verse-chorus-verse hallelujahs, the impact of an ephemeral three-minute song on a room of crashing bodies. The first 15 seconds of the opening title track to the band's fourth album, Prayer for the Weekend, might cause you to think otherwise, but that's only because you've been duped by its ruse. Church organs and pious choirs lose the proverbial rock-paper-scissors match to disco beats, fuzz basses, and easy-to-learn "na-na-na" refrains. This is the Ark's gospel.

Prayer for the Weekend takes everything that was great about last year's State of the Ark -- the crunchy power-pop-isms, the bratty humor, the Broadway flamboyance -- and supersizes it, a gluttonous allowance by a band that has every right to have the world eating from the palm of its hand. Just about every song on Prayer for the Weekend has a blockbuster hook, and some even sound like they were commissioned from behind the velvet rope of an exclusive corner in the heavens. It is pop from on high, blinding with the tasteless glare of studded rhinestones and indoctrinating like military drills, a familiar thrill to those who regularly lose themselves in amphitheatre-caliber choruses yet inventive enough to surprise. When the band boogies, as on the T. Rex shimmy-pop song "The Worrying Kind", it boogies with Budokan afterburners. When it unravels tightly wound Cars-worthy riffs, as on the strutting "New Pollution", the loosening is torrential. These are songs to be played on the world's largest stage, to be sung in rapturous unison by a multitude of anonymous sympathizers.

And yet, though this may sound like the music of the masses, of Billboard trends and Top 40 tastes, it's all strongly opposed to a groupthink mentality. "Absolutely no decorum whatsoever, baby," is the final line to the chorus of "Absolutely No Decorum", an anthem saluting free and foul speech (the awkwardness of the line's meter is offset by its defiant attitude); it's a sentiment which applies to Prayer for the Weekend as a whole. "If you ask why I'm so blunt / It's 'cause I care for you, you cunt," Ola Salo, the Ark's charismatic lead singer, blurts out in "Death to the Martyrs", a raucous kiss-off to idol worship. "You're no longer wild at heart, you're just a boring junkie fart / And if you really wanna die, alright, then die then, you old tart!" Salo has more fun with the English language than most primary English speakers; his routine punning (the titles alone to "I Pathologize" and "Little Dysfunk You" give plenty indication) seems partly enabled by his verbal distance, so to speak.

Still, there's a compromise in the Ark's music, and it's one that's gone unacknowledged or unaccepted by the American public. (In its native Sweden, the Ark has been a great success since 2000; next month it will compete in the 2007 Eurovision Song Contest as its country's representative.) That compromise gives the audience at-large its sweeping pop gestures -- the populist-appealing refrains that rocket from rooftops like year-end fireworks -- but subtracts the idiocy so prevalent in the songs of the band's chart-topping, ideologically conservative kin. In other words, everyone can experience big, obvious pop music without being treated like a lowest common denominator. Some misinterpret such a compromise as a trick, and it doesn't help that the Ark has a tremendous knack to undermine the establishment on which it stands. But there are no tricks on Prayer for the Weekend -- compromises, perhaps, and, for those inclined, plenty of little salvations to go around.

8

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Film

The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.

Music

British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.

Film

Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Music

​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.

Music

The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.

Music

Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.

Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Music

Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.

Books

Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.

Music

Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.

Books

Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.

Film

In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.

Music

The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.

Television

The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.