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Music Review: The Sounds – Crossing the Rubicon

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The Sounds are one of my favorite bands to come out of the early 2000s rock revival scene. Unlike other bands that came out of that movement, The Sounds were not interested in hip posturing or exploring their musical influences intellectually. Instead, The Sounds concentrated their rock style on the basic elements of rock.

Their style is not hard to describe. The guitars stab power chords, the vocals are almost shouted, the rhythm sections are simple strong rock beats, and 80s keyboards sometimes punctuate the melodies.

Their songs were expressions of excitement over new love, angry kiss-offs to exes, or celebrations of music and dance.  Their New-Wave influenced style was tough; there was no lamenting, no soul-searching, or social commentary, just driving rock songs you could sing along to.

The Sounds are from Sweden and English is their second language, yet all their songs are in English.  On their first album, Living in America, they had a limited English vocabulary and sang with heavy accents.  On their second album Dying to Say This to You, their English improved a bit (primarily expanded through curse words) and they added some dancier elements to their sound. Somehow, it sounds even more aggressive than their first album.

On their third album, The Sounds have expanded their musical palette a bit. They have a few mellower songs that are more reflective, their English has improved dramatically, and their lyrics have gotten more complex.

The first half of the album is a great continuation of the traditional Sounds, well, sound. The songs are upbeat and catchy without sounding too complex or sissy. Highlights include “Dorchester Hotel”, “4 Songs and a Fight”, and “Beatbox”. The former two are some of the best rock songs The Sounds have ever made while “Beatbox” is a bit more dance-infected. They manage to pull off white-girl rap without sounding embarrassing.

On the last half of the album The Sounds try to be more reflective and it just does not work. They do not have the personality for a more sensitive sound.  Their accented English sounds awkward in this capacity, not charming. One lyric on one of the later songs “Home is Where Your Heart Is” goes like this:“There was a time I couldn’t see myself growing older/ But then I went for a walk when I came back I was so much taller”. Even as a metaphor that is not exactly profound.

The Sounds fans will appreciate the first half of the album and should definitely pick it up. However, they probably will not like the albums latter half. If you did not like the Sounds before, this is not different enough to convince you otherwise. If you have never heard The Sounds at all, this album has a few career highlights, but Living in America is the ideal place to start.

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About Mark Kalriess