A dustbowl Kasabian, cranking out repetitive car- and concert-friendly chuggers.
Si Hawkins 2012-08-29
Based in New York, fronted by a Scandinavian but with a country-folk aesthetic, Alberta Cross might be expected to conjure a sort of Fargo Rock, hurling a Coen Brothers-style curve ball at the Byrds/Parsons blueprint and winding up with a smorgasbord of quirky, fjord-fuelled Americana.
But no. If this second album by the Anglo-Swedish duo takes anything from their native lands, it’s a passion for commercial, chorus-driven pop rather than the odd or innovative.
Songs of Patience was apparently a pig to produce, involving several cross-country relocations, false starts and dark nights of the soul for singer Petter Ericson Stakee. But little of this painful process is evident on the finished record. No emotive storytelling or moody soundscapes. These 10 songs often appear to be just elaborate jams, whipped up in the studio, with a few scribbled-down choruses added along the way.
Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, but while they’re often compared to the brilliantly influential My Morning Jacket and The Band, Alberta Cross are more of a dustbowl Kasabian, cranking out repetitive car- and concert-friendly chuggers. The mighty riffs of Come on Maker and Money for the Weekend probably sound terrific while cruising through Texas with the top down. But they’re not so good for those stuck at home, hoping to be stimulated by something a little more cerebral.
The album begins promisingly enough, with Magnolia’s simple but effective harmonies, a pleasing cacophony of guitars on Crate of Gold, and the Verve-like Lay Down. But the big axe solos keep on coming, Stakee’s slightly whiny delivery begins to grate, as do the lazy lyrics. “You got away with my mind,” sings the nasal Swede on the amusingly overblown Ophelia on My Mind; “You got my heart intertwined.” Intertwined with what?
Things pick up towards the end, and piano effort Bonfires is a welcome – if belated – change of pace: Stakee takes it easier, struggles less for the high notes and finally engages his audience. Ironically, it’s one of the few moments where the inaptly-named Sounds of Patience doesn’t sound rushed. Signs of promise, then.