Maybe, as their new album Crossing the Rubicon suggests, they are at the point of no return. There’s no turning back now for this band from Helsingborg, Sweden that is on a make-or-break summer tour of America opening for returning rock royalty in the form of No Doubt.
It remains to be seen if the entire country will wake up to the Swede sounds of The Sounds. But the pop-synth techno-electro-lite five-piece band fronted by blond and blue-eyed beauty Maja Ivarsson will get heard over the next three months.
Even if they aren’t mentioned as the opening act, which was the case for the May 27 show at Fiddler’s Green south of Denver. Some local publications never even noticed The Sounds were on the bill, stating that Paramore was leading off the evening’s festivities.
Not that it seemed to matter to The Sounds. While stragglers were still pouring into the outdoor amphitheater because either: a) their tickets didn’t indicate there was a third act or b) they knew of the band but were stuck in godforsaken traffic on I-25, the Swedes performed a quick six-song set with energy and efficiency.
Three of the songs, including the one that will most likely stick with young Americans – the anthemic “No One Sleeps When I’m Awake” – were from Crossing the Rubicon.
Their third album – its name refers to Caesar's historic crossing of the river in Italy in 49 B.C. – will be released June 2 (Original Signal Recordings), but the promotional push happened long before that.
The Sounds are getting the word out, and it’s spreading. They’re everywhere – on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter; headlining dates earlier this year all across the globe, from London to Hamburg to Barcelona to Montreal to New York to the Hollywood Palladium; a late, late, late night appearance on NBC’s Last Call with Carson Daly; in Rolling Stone, which labeled them "Blondie-style cool with a streamlined punk rush" and, before it went kaput, Blender called Ivarsson the "Hottest Woman in Rock."
Maybe before it folded, the mag didn’t realize Gwen Stefani was getting back to business with the group that made her famous.
Regardless, Ivarsson (left) seems more like an Eighties throwback, a cross between the Pretenders’ Chrissie Hynde and Three’s Company’s Chrissy Snow, the dimwitted character from the hit TV show played by Suzanne Somers.
Not that Ivarsson is a ditz with a blond upsweep. Call her that and she’s liable to kick your ass, her live performance proving she’s certainly capable of karate-like moves. In skintight leather and spandex, no less. So watch out, boys and girls, don’t get too close to the tattooed lady. She snarls. She growls. She spits. She prowls. Her voice more gritty than pretty. Her eyeliner as thick as her accent.
While Ivarsson, reportedly a bisexual, is the group’s main attraction, there’s plenty of other eye candy to go around. Guitarist Felix Rodriguez (below left, with Ivarsson) added some heft to the proceedings with soaring guitars on Crossing the Rubicon’s “Dorchester Hotel” and “No One Sleeps When I’m Awake.”
Drummer Fredrik Nilsson took charge on “Beatbox” (the Ting Tings, anyone?) and bass player Johan Bengtsson (just call him “The Sound of Silence”) was the picture of concentration. Keyboardist Jesper Anderberg had that androgynous Flock of Seagulls thing going on, and kept the Eighties alive by leaning heavily on the synths on “Hurt You” and “Painted By Numbers,” both from their second album Dying To Say This To You.
At least on this latest record, there seems to be less reliance on this Missing Persons/Berlin/Human League-like electronica, and that could help the quintet avoid becoming a flashback in the pan.
They wrapped up their session to polite applause with “Hope You’re Happy Now” from 2002’s debut, Living in America, a mere 20 or so minutes after it all began. But The Sounds didn’t go quietly into the night.
While late arrivals rushed onto the grounds hoping to catch a glimpse of carrot-topped Hayley Williams closing out Paramore’s semi-sweet set for the kiddies, all five members of The Sounds were gathering at a tent far away from the maddening crowds.
And there was a line. A really long line of men, women, children and parents (and maybe even grandparents) waiting patiently to meet Maja and the boys. One guy had her autograph his chest. Many others – like the fan pictured with Ivarsson and Nilsson at right – simply wanted face time.
They came, they saw and they heard The Sounds. And it was music to their ears. Are you listening, America?
Bassist Johan Bengtsson of The Sounds
Jesper Anderberg of The Sounds – Synthesizers/Piano
• Publicity photo by Birte Filmer.
• For news, concert dates and more, go to The Sounds’ MySpace page.
• Also for a limited time, go to their website to get a free song download.
• See The Sounds’ video for “No One Sleeps When I’m Awake” below: