August 8, 2012

Douglas Martin is back with scuffed Chucks.

Now that we’ve reached the Age of Iceage, it appears Americans have uncovered a side of Northeast Europe most have been unaware of. After the Danish teens released my second-favorite record of 2011, we’ve experienced a wave of loud guitars and heavily accented English. With bands like Vår, Lower, and the groups featured in the recent Impose feature on Copenhagen, punk rock is about to be Scandinavia’s biggest export since Volvo station wagons. (Not to speak lightly of the region’s contingent of fashion models. Remember: one of the chief philosophers of our time told us that girls from Stockholm be so fresh.)

Denmark is already well-represented, so it’s only right for their neighbors to introduce themselves. In this corner wearing the Swedish flag are Holograms, a band that could rival Iceage as Scandinavia’s Great Punk Hope.

Their eponymous debut begins with a slow march, before breaking into a sprint on “Monolith,” recreating the same feeling of militant hysteria of New Brigade. Like their peers, Holograms find it tough to stay still for too long — their opening number alone crams three separate movements into four-and-a-half minutes. They’ve also got the propulsive, dystopian thing down, as evidenced by “Memories of Sweat,” “ABC City,” and the aptly-titled “Sweat,” whose 2:16 running time sounds exactly like an emotional meltdown in warp speed.

While we’re comparing Honeycrisps to Granny Smiths (Author’s Note: In order to gain citizenship as a true Washingtonian, you must know at least eight different varieties of apples), the slight advantage Holograms have over Iceage is their ability to sprinkle some levity between the caterwauling and uprising. Buoyed by a fluttering keyboard line, “Chasing My Mind” sounds as hopeful as it does lovelorn. Penultimate track and album highlight “Fever” starts off as a charging anthem before easing back into a ballad-like swing, and it’s only one of the showcases for their top-notch rhythm section. “Apostate” is the sort of danceable post-punk that flooded out every hipster bar a decade ago, only without resorting to cheap ploys like dragging out the good part or dressing it up in a pair of neon shutter shades. Singer Anton Spetzer even sneaks a little wry humor into his bands songs, using “Orpheo” to quip, “This is the age of running your mouth.”

During my year-end Tumblr blurb on New Brigade, I wrote: “I really shouldn’t have to tell any of you that in spite of decades of people endlessly arguing the contrary, punk music has never really needed saving. But punk records like New Brigade prove the genre makes the perfect soundtrack for all of the things in the world that do.”

On Holograms closing track “You Are Ancient,” Spetzer sings, “Even though it’s dark, it won’t last forever.” And maybe that’s the big difference between Holograms and the band I’ve spent this entire review comparing them to. They realize life’s not a drag all the time. They realize sometimes you don’t need to be saved. Sometimes you just have to weather the storm to see the bright spots.

MP3: Holograms – “Chasing My Mind”
MP3: Holograms – “Monolith”

We rely on your support to keep POW alive. Please take a second to donate on Patreon!