IMAGINE THE APPEARANCE of a blues-tinged rockabilly combo touting a Canned Heat-slash-Doors vibe with the swagger of The Stray Cats, occasionally coloured with the retro gun-sling of a Johnny Cash. That sounds pretty good, right?
Sweden’s Christian & The 2120s almost achieve it. What holds them back? Well, the stage is expertly set with used props but the talented actors peep out from behind the curtains. Moments plays it incredibly safe. The trace is ready but not shaded over. If it has to be paint-by-numbers, I want it coloured in. The majority of the songs drift on virtually one chord, which is fine, but on a soundstage like this you better have mega-lyrics, a vocalist with character to die for (or both) or at least some instrumental virtuosity that appears as unsettling as a scorpion’s entry.
The ballad ‘Slowdance’ gives us three chords and ‘Seeing Shadows’ begrudgingly stretches to two, which all helps. But the vocals are mixed a little back and the one guitar solo that grabbed my attention in ‘Have Mercy’ is engulfed in a tremolo cloud. Many opportunities to deliver something have not been taken. Lyrical concepts scan the cliché landscape, rehashing ancient ideas like ‘Born to run’, ‘Spread your feathers and shake for me’, and ‘Go down to the water and wash away our sins’. That’s a chestnut right there and a good one, but it’s due for a twist. The album style and conceptual outline suggest an enticing path but the lyrics diminish the desire to walk it due to it being so downtrodden and lacking in the mysterious.
Hope came in the form of the final track ‘Moments’ which hit with an energy worthy of Nick Lowe though bereft of his levity, humour and self-deprecation. The song could’ve opened the album in place of the negative ‘Where The Sun Don’t Shine’. Not that I need everything to be happy-happy all the time, but I do expect some semblance of un-borrowed thought. The song does a Pixies with its sectional soft-to-loud dynamic seesaw – a simple trick that never won me over in the first place, but in this case led me to conclude that the band were holding back the big guns for later. But sonically, the track is appealing. In fact, Moments in its entirety is recorded beautifully.
The appearance of Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band keyboardist John Thomas on six songs is an interesting detail and is historically interesting considering he played on the infamous 1976-recorded Bat Chain Puller which was indeed pulled, finally making its appearance in 2012.
There’s so much you could do with this over-all idea but the songs merely set up a mood and are left to sit, like rock’n’roll retro wallpaper – pleasant on the surface but minus the secret arsenic that would leave me dying for more. PETER KEARNS
Music = 3/5