Album Reviews

The Concretes – The Concretes

(david welsh) UK release date: 21 June 2004

You’re probably thinking “Not another ‘the’ band”, right? Well I’m here to tell you otherwise. They may have opted for a rather unconvincing name, but it is, perhaps, the only drawback to the treats on offer here, treats that can be neatly summed by one word that, for now, escapes me.

The Concretes began life as a trio in 1995 Stockholm, with sultry tragic heroine Victoria Bergsman on vocal duty. Back then they may well have sounded just like The Cardigans, but this is 2004 – they are now a sprawling eight-piece, spouting sparse orchestral pop and often ending up with twenty people or more on stage (imagine a Scandinavian Polyphonic Spree and you’re halfway there). Album opener Say Something New, however, is a lethargic lament, layered with organ, meandering brass and Bergsman’s beautifully sincere voice.

The tracks move on in leaps and bounds surprisingly well for a full-length debut, but perhaps not for a band in which the core has been together for almost a decade. Their current single You Can’t Hurry Love is excitingly new yet familiar, which would appear to be a theme throughout: Old ideas are fed through eight Scandinavians and come out sounding better than ever. The Concretes champion fun music that is at once poppy and sophisticated, balancing surface appeal with a deeper, more meaningful substance. At times it makes for compelling listening, never overtly shallow, never obtrusively artistic.

Chico, one of several slow-burners, is enchanting, and is immediately followed by the simply beautiful New Friend. In fact, New Friend exhibits exactly why The Concretes are so easy to love. You see, English is clearly not the first language of the band, which results in some Bjork-esque lyrical quirks every so often. New Friend, as such, treads over the familiar ground of lost love whilst managing to sound entirely new and innovative. There are no clumsy metaphors clouding the message here, which makes for an utterly refreshing experience.

Above all, The Concretes appear to enjoy their music immensely. They’re all too happy to try their hand at anything from country charm (Warm Night) to orchestral ska (Seems Fine) via marching music (Diana Ross) and piano minimalism (Foreign Country). The Concretes are a blend of all the bands you’ve been meaning to get into with a healthy dose of Nordic eccentricity for good measure. Don’t be fooled by the name – this band is anything but run-of-the-mill. Oh, I’ve just remembered that word. Whimsical. Well, they’re at least as whimsical as anything else Swedish pop has thrown at us thus far.

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More on The Concretes
The Concretes – WYWH
The Concretes – In Colour
The Concretes – The Concretes