Friday, April 19, 2024

Archive Review: The Sounds' Living In America (2002)

The Sounds' Living In America
Red-hot, in-the-moment bands like Hot Hot Heat have helped launch a full-fledged ‘80s-styled new wave pop explosion, complete with infectious dancefloor rhythms, synthesizers, and skinny keyboard players with skinnier ties. The Sounds, hailing from Finland, take the trend to the next level, breaking away from their garage-rocking countrymen to deliver a bouncy, contagious debut album that distills two decades of British and American pop/rock into an intoxicating musical elixir.

Living In America sounds a lot like vintage Blondie, the Sounds offering a similar platinum-tressed femme fatale on the mic with Maja Ivarsson. As much fun as Debbie Harry had with Clem Burke’s lyrics, however, Ivarsson seems like she’s having an absolute riot with tunes like “Seven Days A Week” or “Hit Me!” Think purring, sensual, sex-kitten vocals consistently on the edge of orgasm, with the twin leads of guitarist Felix Rodriguez and synth-wrangler Jesper Anderberg driving the material towards dimensions that Blondie only dreamed of with early ‘80s production limitations.

The Sounds’ Living In America

The Sounds
No matter the accompanying instrumentation, every song comes back to Ivarsson’s breathy vocals, which caress the pop culture-savvy lyrics with enthusiastic glee. Sure, the Sounds rip off every notable influence you can put your finger on, but hasn’t it all been downhill since Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, and Elvis drew up the original blueprints for this rock ‘n’ roll thing in the first place? The title cut takes Kim Wilde’s classic “Kids In America” to new heights. The Sounds nick the sound and fury of the original, dissing the U.S. with the chorus: “we’re not living in America, but we’re not sorry,” the band not missing something that they never had as the song swells to a chaotic and satisfying crescendo.

“Seven Days A Week” is a simple little sweet, with a monster hook that grabs you by the ears and a reckless energy that makes you pay attention. It doesn’t stop there, kiddies, ‘cause there’s not a punter in the bunch among the songs on Living In America. “Rock’N Roll” one-ups Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music, lifting the cadence from “Love Is the Drug” in its comparison of our favorite music to our favorite narcotic (while also asking if we’d like to see Maja naked. Duh!) “Like A Lady” sounds like perfect MTV video fodder, circa ’83 or so, Ivarsson strutting like a Teutonic Pat Benetar.

The Reverend’s Bottom Line

Love, sex, music – these are the subjects that Living In America is obsessed with. That such radio-ready fare as the Sounds is being ignored in favor of committee-chosen playlists says more about the bankruptcy of corporate media culture than the quality of the music on Living In America. ‘Dis shit be the nazz ‘cause the Reverend says so, and if this Sounds disc was played on my radio every hour like that other crap, the world would be a brighter and friendlier place. Check it… (New Line Records, released 2002)

Review originally published by Alt.Culture.Guide™, 2002

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