Sweden’s The Ark has been around since 1991, playing a highly theatrical, costumed brand of glam rock that’s just ridiculous enough to be highly enjoyable. Yet, somehow, we in the States have been largely unaware of their presence, pretty much until now. Maybe it’s due to the success of bands like The Darkness and The Scissor Sisters that The Ark is finally receiving some attention stateside, or maybe it’s just damn time, considering how long they’ve been actively making music. Still, State of the Ark, the band’s third album in all of their 15 years of existence, ain’t a bad little introduction.
Let’s get something straight: The Ark is still ridiculous. Their glittery ’80s rock sound owes a lot to Sparks, Van Halen, Journey, Queen and anyone else with a penchant for everything over the top. And in some respects, they’re a much more enjoyable band than either The Darkness or Scissor Sisters. While the former often seems like a bad joke and the latter feels like a Rent ensemble cast, The Ark are really just a catchy pop band who likes to take the showiness up a notch. That isn’t to say they don’t have some decent pop songs.
“This Piece of Poetry is Meant to Do Harm” is all falsetto vocals and bouncy rhythms, a perfect opener for a grand and flamboyant album such as this. “Rock City Wankers” sounds almost like a MIDI file, perhaps programmed for cell phone ringtones and e-cards, yet it’s a surprisingly caustic call-out to New York rock revivalists, with the bitter line, “here’s some good advice/try some manners fuckface!” Nevertheless, the band does conjure up their own rock magic with “Clamor for Glamour,” a heroic rocker filled with monster riffs and vocodered lead vocals. What’s particularly amusing about this track is that the nonsensical chorus of “oh pa padeo” is actually printed in the lyric liner notes. Yet, when I hear “One of Us Is Gonna Die Young,” I can’t help but think it sounds exactly like Split Enz’s “Six Months on a Leaky Boat.” And I mean, exactly.
Most of the album continues in this fashion, electro dance numbers colliding with guitar-powered rockers. And without actually being “electroclash,” the group seems to embody all of its ideals, particularly the gaudy imagery. I mean look at that cover, with its gay Aladdin Sane in Miami vibe. Now that’s camp. In any case, The Ark are a delicious guilty pleasure, one sugar-coated and dressed in drag, but with a foul, bitter mouth all the same.
Sparks – In Outer Space
Elton John – Too Low For Zero
Erasure – The Innocents
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.