Album Reviews

Madrugada – Grit

(Virgin) UK release date: 1 March 2004


Madrugada - Grit As far as mainland Europe is concerned, Stockholm has been the lauded rock ‘n’ roll epicentre of recent times. Occasionally a band would slip out of the harvest from the farm fields of Europop and start to makes waves in a more westerly direction – The Raveonettes most recently. Previously hidden at the furthest tip north in Norway (Stokmarknes to be precise), a new gasoline-fuelled rock ‘n’ roll torch is about to be set off, blazing in a trail following its bearers: Madrugada with their third, and surely breakthrough, album Grit.

Recorded in Berlin with PJ Harvey producer Head, the album builds on Madruduga’s earlier efforts which saw them persuade 400,000 people to cough up their euros. Imagine a red lit rickety bar in a nowhere town of America’s Midwest, with leather-clad, spirit-guzzling desert caricatures. The bone white, bone thin, black-dressed band playing in the background would be Madrugada. As guitarist Robert Burås admits, growing up in a valley with160 people leaves you plenty of time to discover guitar players.

With seclusion amongst the Northern Lights, it’s as if depressing long winter nights soaked up The Velvet Underground, The Stooges and The Cramps in a marriage with singer Sivert Høyem’s awesome whisky-doused Iggy Pop / Mark Lanegan / Dave Wyndorf / Nick Cave vocals, creating one of the most original stoner psychedelic sounds. Let’s zoom straight to track eight, Hands Up I LoveYou, because it descends so beautifully, and is simply one of the best songs you’ll ever hear. Høyem’s sullen Lou Reed-esque spoken word drapes over a road tripping psychedelic ballad. It screams next single but serves better as an album treasure.

But let’s not discount the seven preceding numbers. Blues-y opener Bloodshot Adult Commitment gets things off at the perfect pace, sounding like a youthful Monster Magnet. Critic f**k you Ready is a garage rock stomper, with Håyem lashing about like Iggy on quaaludes and coke in 1969, while I Don’t Fit sloshes in a broody buzzed ballad orgy of echoing drums, slow burned solos and again, Høyem’s decadent tonsil work.

“Madrugada” translates from the Spanish as “the hour before sunrise” and the music is fitting. Although choosing Majesty as the first single seems an odd choice (a snow-tipped Nick Cave serenade on a record bleeding garage rock floor), by Belladonna, the penultimate gargantua of a song, you’re left tripping on Høyem’s intense but doped vocals. What a band. What an album.


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More on Madrugada
Interview: Madrugada
Madrugada – Grit