Most bands don’t take nine years to put out their first album. The standard is probably two, three tops. There have even been bands that have broken up before their debut came out. And most bands, when given nine years to put out an album, will have toured the world a few times and put out at least three albums. But these statistics didn’t deter The Concretes from taking their sweet time to release their self-titled debut.
Some might think that it’s a miracle that The Concretes hadn’t broken up. But not only did the band stay together, they greatly expanded from an all-girl trio to an eight-piece. And on occasion, the band has been accompanied by as many as eleven backup musicians, increasing the size of the band to twenty. This kind of math is enough to make even Broken Social Scene or The Polyphonic Spree nervous, and yet, The Concretes have made it work for them.
Maybe the unmanageable size is among the reasons it took so long to record a full-length (the band had a series of EPs out before this record), but whatever it took to get everyone in the studio was worth it. The Concretes is absolutely stunning.
The most obvious reference to name when talking about The Concretes would be The Velvet Underground, as the Swedish octet favors the Velvets’ reverb-heavy guitar drone sound. But to narrow it down further, The Concretes emulate The Velvet Underground & Nico, specifically. Vocalist Victoria Bergstrom’s delivery recalls Nico’s heavily accented deadpan, though sung an octave or two higher. “Say Something New,” “New Friend” and “Lovin’ Kind” all see the band taking cues from the legendary New York combo, though each of them is augmented by the addition of strings, organ and other lush orchestration typically not associated with VU.
In addition to the Velvets, there is a strong girl group influence. In addition to the Phil Spector-like production on many of the album’s tracks, The Concretes went so far as to give a few of their songs titles like “You Can’t Hurry Love” and “Diana Ross.” The former is the first single, and one of the standouts on the album, a catchy rocker of a tune that disappears long before it has the chance to wear out its welcome. Other like-minded tunes include the horn-heavy “Seems Fine” and the melancholy “Lonely As Can Be.”
“This One’s For You” brings the album to a close with more shades of the Velvets, albeit layered with horns, harp, washes of reverberating guitar and organ drone. Instead of merely imitating their heroes, The Concretes take the basic groundwork and build stacks of melody on top, resulting in a lush gauze of beautiful sound.
Though it took nearly a decade for The Concretes to get to this point, it’s a good thing they took their time. Beautiful music is something that can’t be rushed.
Velvet Underground – Velvet Underground and Nico
The Tyde – Twice
Yo La Tengo – And then nothing turned itself inside out
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.