Volume 92, Issue 75
Wednesday, February 10, 1999
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Kent are bent on international attention
By Mark Pytlik
One of pop music's greatest virtues is it provides its listeners with a genuine avenue of escape. Good music has the capacity to transcend anyone's surroundings regardless of how dreary or uneventful they may seem.
Isola, the first international release from Swedish upstarts Kent, seems to somehow reinforce this notion. While the band have little in common culturally with North America, the prevailing desire for escape and isolation expressed within Isola is universal enough to strike a chord with any listener.
Fortunately for Kent, the release of their most accessible album has coincided with their first taste of international exposure. While Isola is technically the band's third album, it is their first with English lyrics. Bassist Martin Skold asserts the change was borne out of a need to stay challenged as a band.
"We are as big as we can get in Sweden, but we feel that we haven't done everything that we can do yet," Skold says. "In order to develop and stay on our toes, we thought it would be a challenge for the band to break new territories."
The change opened new doors for Kent. While the band has previously enjoyed phenomenal success in Sweden, the release of the brilliant Isola has them poised to garner substantial merit on this side of the pond.
Like any good success story, Kent has also had their fair share of luck. Gene Baxter, disc jockey for the hugely influential Los Angeles radio station K-ROQ, heard the lead single "If You Were Here" while vacationing in Iceland. The song made a huge impression on Baxter, who promptly added it to the station's playlist. The band hopes to capitalize on the airplay with their opening stint on The Cardigans' North American tour.
According to Skold, the Swedish double bill is a logical pairing. "We've always been friends," Skold muses. "We've actually opened for them as far back as '93, when they released their very first single."
Although The Cardigans have logged many hours playing in the United States, this current tour is Kent's first chance to get a taste of North America. While Skold is noticeably daunted by the mere mention of the U.S. while diplomatically evading comment on his first impressions thus far he does offer some encouraging insight on how the tour has been going. "It's been sold out everywhere," he declares. "The people have been great. I think we sort of win them over by the time the concert is done."
Of course, Kent doesn't need to win over anyone in Sweden, where they are heading up a healthy local music scene. According to Skold, the arts in Sweden are bolstered by ample government support. "Back in the '70s, there was this hippie guy [in the government] who came up with the idea music should be seen as a culture. Old factories became rehearsal rooms and you could get a paper which would allow you to go to a music store and get a guitar or a sound system."
Although their latest album is a meditation on escape (the word "isola" is derived from the Italian word for "island") Kent also has their attentions focused fixedly on their homeland.
Indeed, it is that rare combination of homegrown humility and starry-eyed longing which imbues Kent with a promise few bands ever show.
Copyright © The Gazette 1999