The biography on Mando Diao’s web site informs us that rock ‘n’ roll to them is an escape from the perils of living in what Doves would term a black and white town. The town of which they hail is that of Borange in Sweden, which, apparently, has the highest drug and murder rate in the country. It goes on to say that music was the one thing that could count on, rather like a Christian could count on God.
From this evidence, one would expect an adrenaline-fuelled and riff-heavy affair, with the angst of The Clash and the melody of The Stones – something like that. What’s more, the band are fronted by a singer-songwriter pairing (Gustaf Noren and Bjorn Dixgard), which evokes parallels to Strummer and Jones, or more latterly, Doherty and Barat. In other words, this has all the makings of a punk record, a vicious statement of discontent. The result is quite the opposite.
Hurricane Bar, somewhat contrary to its title, is an album comprising of sweet tunes and big choruses that is largely indebted to Britpop era Oasis and Blur. The lead vocalists even sound a lot like their British counterparts – Noren’s lazy, deadpan vocals on Added Family sound like Parklife/Great Escape era Blur whilst Dixgard could easily pass for Noel Gallagher on All My Senses and White Wall.
Elsewhere, there’s even a hint of The Lightning Seeds believe it or not – the luscious melodies of Clean Town and Annie’s Angle bring back vivid images of sugar-coated icebergs. This is all very well, but you have to question the relevance of a Britpop revivalist band in 2005 – after all, isn’t it the 80’s that are hip and cool at the moment?
It’s all very competent stuff, that’s not in question – well executed pop moments that are pleasant rather than spectacular. It’s just there’s no real edge that marks them out from the crowd. Which is a shame, considering the huge promise shown by the hustle and bustle of their previous releases such as Paralyzed.
However, it’s not all 1995 – which is a relief. Opener Cut The Rope, despite having The Libertines playing The Clash all over it, is one of the most promising things on here, and recent single You Can’t Steal My Love is a marvellous five-and-a-half minute rallying cry for anyone who’s ever been dumped. Then there’s the lovely Ringing Bells, which hints at a Velvet Underground sort of groove.
So all in all there’s enough here to save this album from being purely an ode to the Britpop chart wars. Mando Diao are clearly a talented band with a bright future and Hurricane Bar is a decent if at times derivative album, which will sit very well with people who are lamenting the loss of Oasis and Blur of days gone by. It just won’t blow you away, which, unfortunately for them, is a pre-requisite in today’s overcrowded market. Not so much a hurricane but a gentle shower.