Stockholm duo Friska Viljor use their fourth album to bring a heavy chunk of Scandinavian sunshine pop to our shores. The Beginning Of The Beginning Of The End sparkles with fanfare brass and The Doors inspired organ bashing. Paired with that distinctly Scandinavian sense of ennui and a love of banjo, this is an upbeat album that leaves one feeling all whimsical.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that The Beginning Of The Beginning Of The End doesn’t believe in subtlety. From the opening Larianov it shuffles on stage with the gumption of Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins. With this is the most brazen sense of blue sky guitar pop since ELO‘s Mr Blue Sky. It’s relentless in its throttling of sunshine to extract sunshine juice; harmonies pair with brass sections, punctuated by guitar notes. It’s pure pop theatrics.
There is, however, a dishevelled feeling too. Whilst the beat is always on the up-and-off beat, lyrics more often than not contemplate things less cheery. For as What You Gonna Do starts with a riff akin to a slightly less vivacious Crocodile Rock, the protagonist declares “I was trapped down here at the bottom/ Trying to move out of this constant sorrow/ Many times, so many times I gave up here.” Whilst the bridge gives a sense of hope, a brief pause brings in the thundering chorus mantra of “What you gonna do now?” Initial appearances can be deceiving.
The hidden strength of Friska Viljor is revealed when their music matches their miserable-ist outlook. Useless builds a soft waltz tempo guitar with a lyrical depiction of faces, eyes and hearts that recalls the poems of Allen Ginsberg. It creates a Sergio Leone shoot-out scene with brass, mandolin and female falsetto arrangements of the sort that Ennio Morricone would approve of. It’s a rousing exploration of being no good that makes you want to don a black Stetson and step out to face the inevitable.
Undoubtedly the initial impact of this album will come from its energy. It plays with pace well; Passionseeker pairs the twin guitar energy of Thin Lizzy with a softly stoking expansiveness closer to Wichita Lineman. There’s humour in its whimsy too, as the protagonist states “Passion is everything to you/ I like it, but I like other things too”. Part of the success in blending contrasts comes from Daniel Johansson’s production skills, a talent that he refined on last year’s remarkably authentic disco sound for The Concretes‘ WYWH, another album that pouted sadness despite a seductively infectious rhythm section.
The Beginning Of The Beginning Of The End is a playful album that’s delicate and carefully crafted. The tempos threaten to leave one breathless, but the slower crescendos trigger an unexpected sense of power. With such contrast handled with such ease, here’s hoping that this, four albums in, proves to be a successful venturing forth to a wider audience.