Beards, Blazers & Glasses Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Is All
It's not like I ever had anything against Sweden . After all, its hard to dislike a nation that produced the smorgasboard, the Swedish Chef, H&M, several fine types of vodka and enlightened monarchs like Gustav III. But in spite of their ability to mass produce high quality goods at an affordable rate, Sweden's main musical export was sugary pop like Abba, Max Martin and The Cardigans. Then again, Swedes seem to have it pretty good. What do they really have to sing about? The high price of gasoline? The difficulties of integrating socialism with a market-based free market economy?
Either way, Sweden doesn't only just produce crappy furniture anymore, it's become a musical hotbed of sorts as Dungen, Jens Lekman, the Knife, El Perro Del Mar, Peter, Bjorn & John, Jose Gonzalez, The Hives, The Shout out Louds and We're From Barcelona (who I'll use for the sake of argument) have all broken out in recent years. So with Sweden's stock at an all-time high, I traveled to the Echo on Friday night to see the Los Angeles debut of the Swedish band, Love is All, who ultimately made a succesful case why America should switch its currency to the Krona.
Love Is All's Lead Singer Josephine Olausson: Like Karen O Except Actually Good
Updating the old Ramones formula of 17 songs in 33 minutes, Love is All blazed through a torrid set that clocked in at barely over half an hour but left everyone in the audience satisfied. Commanding attention up-front was captivating lead singer Josephine Olausson moving frentically, leaning over the front of the stage, rapping her squeaky but never annoying vocals with extreme confidence and passion. To her left, bassist Johann Lindwall hopped around stage contributing backing vocals and playing hard lean bass notes while dancing non-stop with the energy of a Ritalin deprived ADD case.
Behind the drum kit, Marcus Gorsch propelled the skittering post-punk rhythms forward, playing like a whirling dervish, hands a furious blur attacking the snares with machine-gun intensity . Tucked away to the far right of the stage was the band's secret weapon, saxophone player, Fredrik Errikson, who turned songs that could've been cold, angular and shadowy, into anthems. The sax licks hit the air with feverish intensity, buoying the spirits of the crowd.
People who began with typical Angeleno apathy were transformed into a mob of dancing bodies, tapping their feet and nodding their head to the infectious melodies and tremendous vibrations of energy. The set was fast and sweet, with the band whip-sawing through the the highlights of their brief catalogue. The intensity of "Talk, Talk, Talk; the Wire sharp guitars of "Used Goods," the "Maps"-like ballad, "Felt Tip" and the band's single and perhaps most instantly catchy song, "Make Out Fall Out Make Up." While the songs hewed close to the album, every occasionally the quintet would display its versality by extending the arrangements into a bass-heavy storming funk.
In just 35 minutes, Love is All turned in a set more fitting to a group of seasoned veterans than one making their first extended tour of the United States. They threw everything they had into the performance: beads of sweat breaking out across each of their foreheads, smiles pasted across their face and live songs that bursted with more color and depth than the 2-dimensional CD recording hinted at.
While I'd liked 9 Times that Same Song quite a bit when it was released last December, it hadn't seemed like the work of a band with staying power. Watching the band on Friday, it became clear that they have the chops and talent to hopefully sustain an extended career. The show was one of the best I've seen this year and also one of the most fun, as their limitless energy made it almost impossible not to like them.
So Sweden...you win. You've proved to me that you're more than just a good place for meatballs, vodka and tall blonde women. Love is All might be the latest Swedish export to make a splash in America, but I'm hoping they aren't the last. Because their live set is so damned good that even the 18th century Swedish emperor Gustav III could get down with them. And just take a look at the picture below, is Gustav III somone you really wanna' contradict? Didn't think so.
Gustav III: Best. Absolute Monarch.Evar.
Love is All-"Make Out, Fall Out, Make Up" from 9 Times That Same Song (left-click)
Love is All: "Used Goods" from 9 Times That Same Song (left-click)