Second album of perfect pop from Scandinavian trio.
Paul Lester 2012-02-29
It could reasonably be argued that the Scandinavians are better than anyone right now at pure pop, and indeed have excelled at it ever since exponents of the form from Annie to The Cardigans made sweet melodies and infectious rhythms a national – or rather, transnational – speciality.
Simian Ghost are quintessential Scandi-poppers, with their bright and breezy summer music for a chart that no longer appears to be open to such things, their highly polished surfaces, sugar-coated choruses and breathy vocals that sound not so much androgynous as exquisitely sexless. Simian Ghost – like Phoenix and Tahiti 80, those groups from that other nation that specialises in this sort of immaculately shiny never-never pop – make hit records for that alternate reality where Prefab Sprout’s When Love Breaks Down and Cars and Girls were number one for weeks.
Prefab are an apt comparison for Simian Ghost, being less a fully-fledged band than a vehicle for singer, writer and producer Sebastian Arnström, the Paddy McAloon figure in the group. Only when things get too multilayered and complex, or a degree of heft ("muscularity" is probably the wrong word for such a fey, diaphanous sound) is required, does he call on fellow musicians Erik Klinga and Mathias Zachrisson.
Just as Prefab's McAloon went against the Smiths-y, rocky grain in the mid-to-late-80s with his airy, intelligent, studio-perfect pop, so too does Arnström seem to be operating at right angles to everyone else today. The track names on Youth – Automation, Sparrow, Siren, Fenix – might not be quite as piquant as previous Simian tracks such as Gay Is the Colour of God or The Solemn Light of Observation, but don’t be fooled by the titles: this is tricksy, flamboyant stuff, from the shimmering Wolf Girl to Curtain Call, which like everything Simian Ghost do has a translucent quality, a lightness of touch, that belies the fact that there are indeed rock guitars, bass and drums being played here.
Whether they can capitalise on the early, local success of 2010 debut album Infinite Traffic Everywhere, highly regarded in critics’ circles in Sweden, remains to be seen – it’s perhaps too subtle and intricate for a marketplace accustomed to being bashed about the bonce by rave-fuelled RnB – but if your palate fancies some tuneful sweetness, Youth will melt in your mouth.