Molotov Jive


Written by: CM on 01/08/2012 18:00:00

Sometimes epic, overwrought production can serve bands incredibly well: U2 almost defined the idea of arena rock in the late '80s and early '90s, not only by delivering towering choruses and heartfelt lyrics, but also by hiring guys like Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois to man the boards, guys whose knack for taking songs to the rafters (and beyond) are unparalleled. Coldplay has built a massively successful career out of channeling that tendency, packing their arrangements with such a vast array of sounds and musical ideas that they have to play live shows to a backing track. And meanwhile, there's The Killers, who burst onto this scene last decade by taking the influence of '80s new-wave and synth pop and merging it with the skyscraping hooks and production values of "Morning Glory"-era Oasis (or, on "Sam's Town," "Born to Run"-era Springsteen). Needless to say, bigger has proved better for more than a few acts in modern music, and one need look no further than the tour receipts or album sales for the aforementioned acts to see that a massive sound is more likely to lure in large audiences than, say, a lone troubadour with raw production and an acoustic guitar.

But arena-sized ambition can derail bands as well: Tom DeLonge gave up blink-182 for a solid decade, making three oversized records with his side project Angels and Airwaves, a band whose depth of musical ideas never even approached the scope of their production. A similar thing happens to Swedish rock act Molotov Jive on their third full-length, titled "STORM," an almost obsurdly overblow spectacle of a record that constantly tries to sound huge...whether or not it has the melodies to make that sound work. But that's not to say that Molotov Jive isn't a talented band, that "STORM" isn't a solid album, or even that the production is a complete blunder: indeed, when the sound works, the songs are undeniable, like with the towering should-have-been-opener "Run," which possesses a shout along chorus, a wall of guitars (a la The Dangerous Summer), and a flourish of synth melodies that recall both '80s bands (the record is evocative of Depeche Mode throughout) and the post-millenial new wave revival (yes, The Killers) to pleasing effect. But just as often, that spacious, echoing production is shackled to songs that don't go anywhere, compositions that meander and search for melodies or hooks ("Take Me In Your Arms") or stumble upon grating ones ("Manhattan").

More frustrating is the vocal production, which surrounds singer and songwriter' Anton Annersand's voice in an almost comical amount of reverb, causing his every word not only to ring, but to actually echo for a few moments after he sings them. The effect is doubtlessly aimed at giving the band a bigger sound, but the actual result is almost aggravatingly distracting, and, for me at least, was almost impossible to get past. It doesn't help that Annersand's default setting as a singer is desperate earnestness, causing him to shriek, inhale, and almost cry out every note in order to heighten the emotional texture of the song at hand. I'm all for emotional connection, but Annersand's overwrought delivery is almost always aimed at breaking-point intensity, and as good as he can sound in that vein (the radio-ready "Friendship" is a good example of what happens when it works), it becomes exhausting over the course of the record. That said, when the band drops the tempo and Annersand sings the songs straight (and in a lower register) like on the climactic finale that is "Sleep Safe," or on the gorgeously resigned and electronic-influenced "Just Leave," the results are stunning. He has a unique instrument, giving the band an instantly distinctive sound (despite their obvious collection of influences), but he just needs to learn to save his emotional intensity for the appropriate moments.

It's almost not fair that Molotov Jive will instantly be compared to some of the biggest acts in modern pop and rock music, but that association also has its perks. At its best, "STORM" sounds like a welcoming bell, an announcement to herald an act with the talent and the scope to play in the big leagues; at its worst, it comes across as pale imitation of that scene. The songs the band has written here do generally merit the size and scope of production they attempt, so it's a shame that the finished product is a bit shoddy and mismanaged. With a giant like Brian Eno or Daniel Lanois behind the boards, these guys could have been filling stadiums; by all rights, the same thing should have happened with Sylvia Massy (whose resume includes work with Aerosmith, Prince, and Red Hot Chili Peppers), but the result is almost stifling instead. Still, these guys have a gift for the grandiose and the subdued alike, and while "STORM" only rarely reaches its high level of potential, with the right person behind the boards, they could go global.

Download: "Run," "Just Leave," "Sleep Safe"
For the fans of: The Killers, The Horrors, U2

Release date 07.03.2012
Cosmos Music Group

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