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Volume 90, Issue 84
Wednesday, March 05, 1997
Soundwaves: Crunching is better than stirring
In 1985 The Stranglers brought us the album, Aural Sculpture. This year, Stir brings us its self-titled album which should be filed under aural poo-poo. The band's sound attempts to be rawkin. The three-piece group's influences are Seattle based, but the initial noise is too mainstream to be held up to the likes of Pearl Jam.
The opening track, "We Belong," stinks of Live's Mental Jewellery. Andrew Schmidt's already-been-done cord patterns sound pleasant and catchy. Unfortunately, nothing of great consequence happens with the rest of the track. A mainstream sound is maintained for the almost sweet "Lady Bug." Schmidt sings with a kind of gusto heard coming from 12-year-olds' radios all over suburbia. This form is maintained through "Stale," "Nephew" and "Looking For." Ironically, "Stale" is the name of only one song on this here mighty CD.
Despite the explicit new rock motif, "One Angel" breaks the stereotype. Backed by an acoustic guitar, Schmidt's voice conjures up new country images. In mid song, the guitar goes electric and a girlie voice backs Schmidt for the chorus' howl of "OOOONE AIN-GEL." Sadly, this brush with new country is not a fluke. The tunes "Star," "Until Now" and "Train" continue the decline of rockers moving to hickville. However, the aforementioned songs pale in comparison to "Ten Dances." The acoustic cords, the drawl and the weak harmony endanger the previously established rock facade.
After a few good painful listens to Stir, I conclude that the Canadian Moist-Blue Rodeo hydra has found its American cousin.
The recent success of The Cardigans and to a lesser extent, The Wannadies, has opened the door for more new Scandinavian bands to try their luck on North American waters. Leading the pack is Pineforest Crunch, a five-piece, girl-fronted pop band from Sweden. While Make Believe, the band's major label debut, is essentially a pop album, the band demonstrates that it is not afraid to experiment with less conventional instruments.
Flute, clarinet and classic guitar are all utilized on different tracks, usually with mixed results. The soaring opening track "Cup Noodle Song," is about as busy as a three-minute pop song can get. Replete with chimes, strings and a jangly guitar coda, it's easily the strongest track on the album. Also good are the mid-tempo ballad "Barbie" and the mournful closer "Trees."
The band's lyrical content is divided evenly between a quirky side and a more brooding, nostalgic world. This makes for a varied yet accessible listen. The album's weaknesses lie mainly in the songwriting department the hit-and-miss nature of the songs prevents the album from gathering any momentum and subsequently, the best tracks suffer. Another major stumbling block is lead singer Asa Eklunds' voice. At times it seems almost too reserved for the up-tempo nature of many of the songs.
While Make Believe has a little too much filler to be deemed a classic pop debut, there are enough good songs on here to reward the persistent listener. If anything, it is a glimpse of what Pineforest Crunch might accomplish once it matures and finds its stride.
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