What began as a matter of convenience for Torsten Larsen and Tore Johansen has become an essential partnership that is now Larsen & Furious Jane. The band initially formed in 2002 because Johansen had the equipment (microphone, computer, and available space) to help Larsen record some songs.
Larsen & Furious Jane has varied from being simply a duo to at one point an eight-piece outfit to currently a quintet (with Mikkel Ibsen, Keld Jørgensen, and Tom Jørgensen). L&FJ joins a short list of critically acclaimed Danish bands like Mew, The Raveonettes, and Under Byen in bringing Denmark to the forefront of top European musical exporting countries. The band’s third LP Zen Sucker represents the darkest collection of their works (it follows 2004’s I’m Glad He’s Dead and 2005’s Tourist With A Typewriter) to date.
The opening track “Selling Yourself By The Ounce” plays on the album’s depressing, if not idealist, title. For Larsen, the album “is a mental vampyre, that sucks all good will and positive energy out of you and leaves you groaning without a chance to master anything but the most necessary movements” (press release).
Depending on how you look at it, this concept can be uplifting, because it allows your focus to revolve only around what matters. The album’s minimalist style symbolizes the band’s attempt to eliminate the superfluous. This works well in the euphoric tracks like “A Car That Comes With The Job” and “The People Person Is A Zen Sucker” that tend to highlight the better fruits or distract from the worse sprites.
However, it’s also discouraging because the concept limits your focus to a few things while abandoning the enjoyment of other experiences. Regret is one of the worst things to have in life, which “A Deathbed Conversion” paints vividly in its flashing-before-your-eyes sort of way. “Fine” tells a similar tale, albeit in the opposite direction with the very direct “kill me now” repeating over and over.
“Forbidden Fruit” is probably the most appropriate closing song with Larsen & Furious Jane reminding us that eternal pleasure was at our grasp but ultimately its removal was out of our control.
Listening to Zen Sucker is like trying to have a picnic on a partly sunny day. There’s the principal joy of eating and spending time with loved ones outside in a somewhat natural setting, but the continual interruption of sunlight for contrasting clouds makes for a mixed bag of emotions.