As you’d expect, we’re firmly in Happy Days territory in The Playtones’ new album, Rock’n Roll Is King. The clue’s in the title, really… Route 66, American diners where a Coke costs a dime, and jeans turn-ups so high that they’re almost at knee-level.
But stop the Cadillac! Is that schlager I can hear, 50 years too early? Well, not quite. But there’s something about opening track Madeleine that sounds a bit more The King and less like the Jerry Lee Lewis medley at the heart of this album…
And a quick check of the credits reveals that it was written by Thomas G:son! So that’s him and Fredrik Kempe on board. That’s usually enough to entice the most ardent of schlagerfans. Other names include Lionheart writer Karl-Ola Kjellholm (Amy Diamond, The Pusher) and young Jimmy Jansson (Melodifestivalen’s Amanda).
Highlights include the aforementioned Madeleine, as well as The King – that much is obvious. But there’s a sweet melancholy to Another Sad Goodbye, and My Heart Comes Back To You sounds like it needs to be covered by Dolly Parton. This obviously means it is amazing.
You’ll know what to expect if you put this on – but what may surprise you is that you’ll enjoy it…
First of all, we have to announce that we’re giving up trying to watch Melodi Grand Prix live. Frankly, the stress of trying to establish the link to Norway on a Saturday night is just too much. We’d rather be drinking. So that’s what we’re going to be doing this Saturday.
That said, we will be watching the show on playback (if NRK hasn’t blocked us for all the negative comments we’ve been throwing at them recently), so it’s not a protest. Just trying to keep calm and stave off that heart attack for another while.
Onto the songs, then! This week, we’re going to Skien, which is down in the south of Norway. It’s actually very close to where our cousins live, and it’s a beautiful area. Very nice in summer. But we’re still in the depths of winter, so it’ll be freezing.
As if you couldn’t guess, Susperia’s Nothing Remains is this year’s metal entry. It’s rather good, actually. There’s a tune. And the string arrangement is stunning. To be honest, it’s a lot more engaging than some of the schlager we’ve heard from this year’s Eurovision selection processes.
Noora Noor has got a great voice, and she uses it so well on Gone With The Wind. It’s a meandering number, but it’s very quiet. Far too quiet, in fact. It’s going to get lost on the Skien wind. Which is a shame, because on her album this will be a great track.
Girl Happy’s electro-tinged SOS is interesting. Alexander Stenerud’s younger brothers are just starting to find out that women break your heart. On the one hand, we like it. It’s boppy and fun. But on the other, there’s something troubling. It’s not bobby and fun enough. It’s almost as if they were planning something more, and didn’t quite make it in time. We don’t doubt for a second that the group are entering the song they want to, and this is just us being pernickety. There’s a shameless key-change shoved in there for good measure, though.
Grethe Svensen takes us to Motown on Like Dreamers Do, and we’re quite happy to tag along. The arrangement is stunning – she evokes the era perfectly, and, importantly, gets the balance with the backing vocalists just right. And then, just as we were wishing Grethe to take it up a notch, that’s what she does! A great money note takes us to a wonderful ending. Lovely.
Dansband time again with The BlackSheeps. Dance Tonight is nothing you wouldn’t expect, although the lead singer sounds like she wishes she was in a scuzzy basement rocking out rather than entertaining the good folks of Skien.
Haba Haba, sings Stella Mwangi. The attitude in the vocal comes out immediately, and she sounds great. This is a European take on the sub-Saharan sound, and it could do very well. Shakira’s Waka Waka was a big hit in Scandinavia. There have been a few comparisons to Getty Domein’s Yeba from last year’s Melodifestivalen. It doesn’t sound anything like it – this is much better. But everyone will be clapping to this, because Stella makes them in the last quarter. And it’s going to work brilliantly. Nothing like it has ever been in Eurovision. Perhaps it’s time for Africa…
How do you follow that? With 50s rock’n'roll, of course. With more than a nod to Jerry Lee Lewis, The Lucky Bullets have a Fire Below. The extinguisher won’t be available for three minutes, though. The group’s styling is exquisite – we’re major fans of the look, all slicked-back Brylcreem and shirts. But the sound isn’t fresh, it’s just 50s-by-numbers – let’s not pretend otherwise just because it doesn’t sound like anything else on offer. It’s not a bad song, we really like it.