Welcome to Sweden, a land where country music sounds like Belle and Sebastian and debut albums have five bonus tracks.
If you've heard of Swedish band The Chrysler, you have probably heard that at home they are considered a country band. Listening to their debut album, Failures and Sparks, this categorization is truly perplexing. Calling this album country music is like filing Radiohead under punk; there may be some similarities, but it certainly isn't an obvious choice. The beginning of the album is especially un-country. Songs like "What I Must Keep with Mine" and "When Sarah Came to Town" are closer to Coldplay and Sondre Lerche, and even the Ryan Adams-tinged "Holy Holy Holy" is at odds with the genre. Where country music is all about sweat, blood, and rule breaking, The Chrysler's David Bowie posh-ness and robotic drums can sound about as clean and cold as an IKEA catalog spread. The only question I can think to ask: is the label trying to sabotage these guys or what?
Once you recover from this gross misclassification, Failures and Sparks isn't such a bad listen. The tenth and final real album track (the disc includes five bonus tracks, a brazen gesture on an American debut), "Yours Sincerely" is the best song on the album, and aside from the delicate vocals, is close to country. It is a slow, bare-bones tune that uses (what sounds like) an accordion to a melancholy affect. The refrain, though fairly senseless, is ear-catching: "Honest to God, I read it somewhere."
There are not a lot of standout tracks here, and Failures and Sparks manages to sail along peacefully without measuring up to either part of its title. "Holy Holy Holy" stands out as a singable tune, but when followed by the dismal "When Sarah Came To Town", gets lost in the shuffle. "Revolution #1" is a jaunty Belle and Sebastian-esque number, and demonstrates a possible future direction for this disjointed band.
The lyrics range from competent to interesting, though the music doesn’t usually make the most of them. "Damn Straight Evil", a Zombies-tinged highlight, features some of the album's best:
"The adventure that will end your life, /
Blood, sweat and tears and common strife, /
Not a single ounce of magic left to squeeze, /
This summer's over, now it's your time to freeze."
Lyrics like this have the potential to pack a punch, but inevitably get lost in the uncertainty of The Chrysler’s melodies. A little bit of blood, sweat and tears would inevitably help, as would a bit more focus. So far, the Chrysler's biggest problems are an identity crisis and a few too many bonus tracks. Let's hope they can pull it together on album two.