Sweden is becoming a bigger hotbed for rock imports. When European rock bands invade U.S. shores, they typically come from England (Coldplay, Franz Ferdinand), Ireland (U2) or Norway (A-Ha). Sweden’s ability to pump out quality bands has grown in recent years.
Bands like The Hive, Razorlight, and The Soundtrack Of Our Lives have enjoyed some North American success. Other bands like I’m From Barcelona, Peter Bjorn And John, and The Sounds have gained critical acclaim, yet are still searching for an audience. Mando Diao is in the latter group of bands trying to find that spark into mainstream consciousness.
It’s not like the band isn’t trying. Energetic is Mando’s signature sound. The band had so much enthusiasm with its first album Bring ‘Em In that you didn’t think there would be any left for a second album (Hurricane Bar), let alone a third. With Ode To Ochrasy, Mando takes the lively, somewhat hyper energy of its debut album and evolves it into a more relaxed, albeit still punkish energetic throwback to sixties rock.
The open track “Welcome Home Luc Robitaille” sets the tone with its calming verses juxtaposed with a bouncing rebellious chorus. The next track “Killer Kaczynyski” with even its title screams mania. You don’t know it’s a Mando album until “The Wildfire” where the band plays its signature inflective melodies in emphasizing the first choral syllables.
Toward the Ode’s middle is where you start to feel a mood shift. Frontman Bjorn Dixgard explains it with the album’s title “ochrasy” as “that hallucinatory world you enter around four and five in the morning… a sort of utopian world where anything can happen, where everything is allowed.” The swing is strongest felt in the composed “Amsterdam” with its imagery of complete uncertainty. Placed in-between the surf-at-the-beach melodies of “Tony Zoulias” and the mellow love letter to couch potatoes everywhere in “TV And Me,” “Amsterdam” finds itself balancing the effects of alcohol and partying with the moment of sobriety when adrenaline vanishes and drunkenness wears off.
A long night’s eventual end couldn’t be better captured with the pairing of the slight Jack Johnson-like “Josephine” and the Beatles-like “The New Boy” to create one connecting summation of a great time. With lyrics like “gets the very best of a man / and pays him with a laugh / don’t you see she is not a mystery,” “Josephine” sounds like a man singing himself a lullaby to get over being dumped. In “The New Boy,” Dixgard becomes a man starting a new day with revelatory praise of himself (“now here is the new boy taking on the world tonight”).
One of the big differences for Mando this time around is the help of former Soundtrack of Our Lives bandmate Bjorn Olsson in producing this album. “This time we’ve been listening more to the general feeling and how we play together, instead of worrying too much about details,” said bassist CJ Fogelklou of Olsson’s contributions and influences on Ode. It’s fitting that the final track is called “Ochrasy,” bringing the album full circle as Dixgard sings solo accompanied with only a guitar to give the song a reflective pace and mood. He even whistles toward the song’s end, giving it a slow, hometown feel. The night is over, but only until the next night starts