Most everything about the 2003 debut album from Sweden’s the Sounds, Living in America, felt like a Blondie revival. Resonant new wave keyboards with ’80s guitar licks were the name of the game, and in a way, they were ahead of the curve. The Killers, VHS or Beta and the Bravery followed suit and the Roland revolution took shape. Waiting three years for the next album by the Sounds is probably what will be most damaging to the band. Dying to Say This to You is the next release from Maja Ivarsson and the gang, an album which suffers under the weight of an American new wave overkill, a fault not exactly their own, but them’s the breaks.
Ivarsson’s vocals are a brash mix of Debbie Harry, Martha Davis, Dale Bozzio and Kim Wilde, with particular early tracks on the album greatly resembling such songs from the latter as “Kids in America” and the cover of “You Keep Me Hanging On.” The first two tracks kick this dance pop album with a bang, the cocky single “Song With a Mission” and “Queen of Apology.” Choruses will lodge in the brain, not easily removed, and the toes will tap as the head nods, but at the same time the songs, as will most on the album, ring hollow. There is absolutely nothing original about the Sounds. Jeff Saltzman’s production only amplifies the feeling as it nearly echoes his work with the Killers.
“Tony the Beat,” the Sounds’ sex song, is simply embarrassing, falling a little more on the side of scary than sexy. Don’t get me wrong, Ivarsson is an attractive and sultry frontwoman, but “Tony” is laden with adolescent silliness. “24 Hours” is a little better, getting back to the simple new wave formula that brought the band to America’s attention in the first place. The shouted words at the end of lines in the chorus recall some of the earlier 80’s shout-outs. “Painted by Numbers” continues that trend nicely and then leads into one of the better tracks on the record, “Night After Night.” The song is more reminiscent of some of Berlin’s more popular slow burning numbers like the Top Gun hit “Take My Breath Away.”
Then, of course, the feeling is ruined with the impetuous and arrogant, aptly titled song, “Ego” in which Maja needlessly drops the f-bomb, as is also done in follower, “Don’t Want to Hurt You.” The latter song also echoes Berlin and their alternating male and female vocals. But both songs that recall Terri Nunn’s band are pale shadows, not near to living up to the great songwriting of “Sex (I’m a)” and “No More Words.” The profanity and sex in the album seem at best irrelevant, and at worst juvenile. I don’t even think tweens will find shock value in Dying to Say This to You. Considering how promising I found Living in America, the Sounds’ second album, is a big disappointment. Not even the help the band received from Adam Schlessinger and James Iha could revive this record, which was essentially D.O.A. With all of the great music to mine in the world, can we finally get off of the bubblegum new wave bandwagon?
Kim Wilde- Kim Wilde
The Motels- All Four One (though not nearly as good)