Something is rotten in the state of Denmark – and Scandinavia as a whole, it would seem. No one with half a brain can have failed to notice the parade of grey-tinted Nordic crime dramas and violent detective novels that have been waltzing all over our television screens and best-seller charts for the past few years, trailing bloodied Fair Isle jumpers in their wake, and the music that the Scandi nations are pumping out at the moment does nothing to dispel this darkness.
Lust For Youth, the moniker of Swedish darkwave act Hannes Norrvide, is just one of a whole host of depressive post-punk influenced bands who’ve exploded out of Europe’s northern reaches, along with the likes of Danish bands Iceage and Lower, and fellow Swedes Holograms.
Where those bands play noisy guitar music, taking the sparse dissonance of early Wire and Gang Of Four and pushing it to crazy, hardcore extremes, Norrvide takes his cues more from the unsettling, dark-edged synthpop of Depeche Mode and New Order. His 2012 album Growing Seeds displayed these influences pretty brazenly: it was a record you could definitely dance to, as long as you assumed an expression of stony-faced moroseness while you did so – comparable to a more DIY Cold Cave. His most recent album, though, sees Norrvide diverging a little from the darkwave template.
Perfect View comes hot on the heels of Danish synth band Vår’s debut No One Dances Quite Like My Brothers, with both Lust For Youth and Vår emerging from the same incestuous Copenhagen punk scene (Norrvide having decamped there from his native Gothenberg); Vår’s Loke Rahbek has played with Lust For Youth as part of their live set. Unsurprisingly, then, the records share similarities: like Var, Lust For Youth have moved on from lowest-of-the-lo-fi analogue synthpop of their earlier output to a more ambient and unsettling sound.
Where Growing Seeds opened with the punchy electropop of Behind Curtains, a song that sounded like a Human League bootleg played through a broken radio, Perfect View takes a very different approach: initial track I Found Love fades into being with a repetitive synth line that cascades hypnotically over what sounds like a field of insects, Norrvide’s chanted lyrics echoing as though recorded in a bathroom. There’s a distant, aloof quality to the album – the hooks are emptier and sparser than the full-blooded synth chords of its predecessor, the drums more muted and tribal. The closest it gets to the blurry electropop of the band’s earlier work is in Vibrant Brother, which sounds like Depeche Mode’s Just Can’t Get Enough given a shot of Nordic bleakness and blasted through a cheap megaphone. There are shades of Depeche Mode too in the very Enjoy The Silence-like synth stabs of Another Day, and in the airy baritone of Norrvide’s chanted vocals throughout the record.
If Growing Seeds was the moody, alcohol-fuelled dancing at the beginning of the party, Perfect View is the whacked-out small hours, when half the guests have gone home and the stragglers are passing a joint around in an attempt to stave off inevitable sobriety. The disembodied chunks of speech and unidentifiable noises that pepper the album only add to this feeling: the unintelligible angry rant at the beginning of the swirling, house-inflected eight-minute long title track, the banal conversation leading into the chilled-out, vaguely Balearic-sounding Kirsten.
In Perfect View, Lust For Youth have immersed fuzzed-up ’80s synthpop in an unnerving ambience, infused the whole thing with shades of house and come up with an album that’s a challenge, but a completely mesmerising one.