How Swede It Is
We've got nothing specifically against Division of Laura Lee (DOLL), the latest Swedish import to try to fill the Hives' already-too-tight Beatle boots—though when it comes to DOLL, we'll stick to New York or at least the Valley of. But there's a lot more to Sweden that's getting hazed out in the hype—more than statuesque blondes, quasi-socialism and that legendary bikini team. Maybe it's the language barrier, or maybe it's years of injurious stereotypes perpetuated by the Muppets, but there's generations of festering creativity still waiting to be discovered behind the so-called Swedish Invasion. And when they aren't ripping off American and British bands—which isn't often, so far—here are four crucial artists the swank Swede might be listening to:
THE SWEDISH MOTÖRHEAD: ANTI-CIMEXOr maybe the Swedish Black Flag. Anti-Cimex is what you spray on bugs over there, just like Black Flag is what you spray on bugs in Huntington Beach—except they played so goddamn fast. Anti-Cimex's second single ("Raped Ass," for those of you taking notes) won them a place of honor on many a crusty punk's filthy, patch-covered, camouflage jacket, and trust us: you have to be pretty harsh and dirty to get a spot on a crusty punk's jacket. But from there, Anti-Cimex just got darker, harder and faster, working themselves into a frothing frenzy of brutally anti-establishment politics and metallic riffs so dense and jagged you could cut glass with them. By later releases such as Made in Sweden and the comparatively tamer Scandinavian Jawbreaker, they had mashed the speedy scum metal of Motörhead into hardcore punk politics; if they got any more abrasive, you'd use their LPs to sand down Bondo on your car. THE SWEDISH BEACH BOYS: THE TAGESWhen four boys from Gothenburg won "The Beatles of the West Coast" contest in 1964, they probably didn't count on the bare-bones studio session they won as a grand prize ever getting much past the city limits. Instead, it took some casual flip-flopping around the dial for the Tages—from the guitarist's middle name—to figure out they'd bounced the Beatles out of the Swedish charts with their first single, "Sleep Little Girl," the first of many glorious achievements by what would become one of the best Swedish bands of the '60s. By the time they'd record "I Read You Like an Open Book," the 1968 track later comped on godhead '60s psychedelia box collection Nuggets II, they'd followed the Beatles through Sgt. Pepper into a decidedly more sophisticated pop sound. "Open Book" and "Halcyon Days," one of the Tages' last singles, could almost have coalesced out of some of Brian Wilson's good vibrations—those choir-boy backup harmonies sound more SoCal than Sweden—but it still wasn't enough to tug the Tages into the international spotlight. THE SWEDISH CLASH: EBBA GRON Superfans still tag them as the Swedish Sex Pistols: the debut "Antirock" single hit as loud and hard as "Anarchy in the UK," and Ebba's reputation for controversy snowballed toward hyperbole with the release of their first full-length, We're Only in It for the Drugs. But like the Clash, Ebba Gron was always unabashedly political (they couldn't print the lyrics to certain songs because authorities worried listeners might be inspired to revolt) and stubbornly innovative, evolving from inspired three-chords-and-the-truth '77 punk to something more calculated and ambitious—naturally, they'd added a keyboard player. Ebba Gron broke up in 1983 after bassist Lennart Eriksson ended up in prison for opting out of the national draft. THE SWEDISH ELVIS: LITTLE GERHARDIn 1958, after a string of singles mixing rock & roll standards by Buddy Holly and Johnny Otis with his own originals, Sweden's Little Gerhard was officially declared the Scandinavian King of Rock, putting him within sycophanting distance of—as he puts it—"the greatest rock & roll artist in the world." Elvis squeezed in a meeting with Gerhard (probably sometime after doing that photo-op with Nixon), an event later immortalized on Little Gerhard's most recent CD, From King to King, a collection of Presley songs done with Scandinavian style. After accumulating a Presleyesque discography of immaculately coifed rock, Gerhard retired to spend some time on the other side of the mixing board as an A&R man after his career lost its initial momentum—most famously discovering ABBA's Agnetha Faltskog! Division of Laura Lee performs with Burning Brides and the Catheters at the Glass House, 200 W. Second St., Pomona, (909) 629-0377. Tues., 7 p.m. $10. All ages.
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