With six albums behind them, nearly two million records sold globally, and a career spanning some 16 years, Millencolin are arguably Sweden’s most successful punk rock outfit. Their seventh LP, Machine 15, looks to build on these impressive foundations and cement a reputation at the top of the skate-core pile.
From the outset, Machine 15 seems intent on pummelling the listener into submission, with pounding drums, loud guitars, and fast chord changes. Opener, and title track, uses a sexy, chewy Hives-esque guitar riff as its centre point as Nikola Sarcevic barks out his vocals. An arresting opener.
Unfortunately, it’s downhill from there. Done Is Done is passable bar its tepid synthesised string arrangements while lead single Detox is utterly bland, radio-friendly drivel akin to McFly. On we go through the swollen Feeder sounding Vicious Circle which is slightly redeeming and hints that Millencolin can still write songs. But by the raw guitar opening of Broken World, I’m wondering if Machine 15 actually has any ounce of variation.
It seems that big, squeaky clean production (well done Lou Giordano) has hindered the songwriting process. It’s as if Millencolin had hoped that the big production would mask the fact that musically, there’s nothing very creative happening.
There is no light and dark, no loud and soft, no high and low, it’s all aural onslaught, same song structure, similar tempo – the end result is something that grows rapidly tiresome, and these are elementary mistakes for a band so experienced.
Another big problem with this album comes with the lyrics of Sarcevic, where soul-destroyingly pretentious and clichéd pop ramblings are replete. In point of fact, take Come On, which intuitively instructs its listener to “Dream on, dream on, dream on / It’s as easy as pie”. I don’t need some twat inside a speaker telling me this.
What about Who’s Laughing Now? Surely a band wouldn’t write a song about being slated by critics because they were jealous? Surely the chorus wouldn’t sing: “Look who’s laughing now / All the way to the bank”…oh.
If you’re reading this Millencolin, this critics contempt for your album is not in any way born from jealousy. Perhaps if you grew some balls and wrote something that wasn’t gut-wrenchingly, mind-numbingly substanceless, having long since sold out to line your pockets, as you appear to testify to in Who’s Laughing Now, you might get those “jealous” critics back on your side.
Sarcevic’s vocal delivery, too, is annoying at best. The autotune is doing a double-shift and his lack of timing and attention to the rhythm of the song render Fredrik Larzon’s metronomic drum bashing and the tight guitar arrangements almost pointless.
One for the fans then, and the skaters, and the emo kids, but Machine 15 will not go down in history, and for something that took three years, it really should be stronger.
Happily, the one redeeming feature of an album of such spectacular blandness and lack of variation is that already I can’t remember the songs. Now where did I put my Anadin Extra…