Swedish quartet Millencolin might be named after the “melancholy” skateboarding move but there’s nothing “sad” about them. A healthy 13-year existence, five studio albums, two million albums sold and even their own skateboarding competition – The Millencolin Open – held every year in their musical home of Örebro.
Despite this, their last album Home From Home saw some of their fans telling them to “Shove It” (to coin another skateboarding phrase) because of its move away from punk towards more middle-of-the-road, melodic rock.
The good news is that with Kingwood, Millencolin have come right back to their roots, from the return of the Southern California punk-influenced sound of old, to the use of a non-celebrity producer (Bad Religion‘s Brett Gurewitz did 2000’s Pennybridge Pioneers, Lou Giordano of Lemonheads, Goo Goo Dolls and Sugar fame did Home From Home).
For half an album at least, Kingwood hurtles along like a party-filled tour bus. Millencolin don’t do anything new but they write damn good songs that have an immensely likeable je ne sais quoi (or det vet jag inte vad to use the Swedish) quality about them.
Opener Farewell My Hell illustrates the point perfectly. On one level it’s Bad Religion, three-chord, frenetic punk-by-numbers, but the recurring guitar motif, the criminally catchy chorus and the life’s-a-bitch-but-deal-with-it lyrics (“Forgive me, life is cruel. I’m leaving you!”) turn it into something way more.
Birdie and Shut You Out continue the tunefully good work, the supercharged Biftek Supernova wins with its buzzsaw guitars, while My Name Is Golden is a little nugget full of rock ‘n’ roll swagger.
In amongst these comes the album’s best track. Cash Or Clash is a homage to Joe Strummer and co (the clue’s in the name!) that is joyously executed with a ragged, stomp-along, shout-along, glorious chorus. If you ever dug the feelgood Clash references of early Rancid (or Rancid’s precursors, Operation Ivy) then this one’s for you.
Alas, the second half of Kingwood does not live up to the high standards set by the first. Ray lends weight to the argument that if you try to take Green Day on, you’ll probably lose (all issues of punk “street cred” aside). The 90 seconds long Simple Twist Of Hate sacrifices almost all of its aggression for the lesser goal of speed, while Hard Times is somewhat faceless pop/rock and a disappointing way to finish.
Still, Stalemate and the party-punk of Mooseman’s Jukebox remind you that much of Kingwood is more than good – it’s superb. The CD cover features a cartoon of Millencolin frontman Nikola Sarcevic with antlers and the rest of the band on the lookout with rifles. Which just about sums it up – Kingwood is definitely worth hunting out.