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Short opinions on the new Kent

26/06/2010
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It’s not the summer pop album that was expected after the double A-side.

First things first, a little history for those who aren’t familiar with Kent, which I assume would be most of the people who read this. Out in the big, big world they’re practically unknown but if you venture to the Nordic/Scandinavian area of Europe, it’s the complete opposite: they’re not called “Sweden’s biggest band” for nothing, y’know. They tried to break through elsewhere a couple of times in their history by translating two albums into English in order to break the language barrier and doing support tours but the reception was fairly lukewarm (perhaps to do with the fact that the singing and translation were really, really clunky) and eventually the band said “sod it” to the whole thing and continued to enjoy their massive place in the sun back in their native regions. They’ve even managed to keep it despite the odds – maybe it’s something in the attitude of the Northern Europeans or simply a testament to their quality, but the band managed to stay on top of commercial charts, critical success and fan acceptance when they switched their sound from the melancholy rock crunches that made them huge into something close to synth-poppers as keyboards, drum machines and synthesizers started to dominate their sound around 2007.

And so we come to En plats i solen, sneakily released a year after the fantastic Röd (one of 2009’s very best releases, in a year full of fantastic albums) with the announcement coming out of thin air. The double A-side “Gamla Ullevi” / “Skisser för sommaren” had a more upbeat, hook-driven sound and the impression, alongside the album cover, was that this would be some sort of a weird summery pop experiment for the band. Not really though – En plats i solen is about the most Kent-esque album that Kent could release at the moment. It tones down the synthesizers from Röd and harkens back to 2007’s transitional Tillbaka till samtiden in its synths-meet-rock-instruments sound. It’s not particularly upbeat, nor is it particularly dark. Quite frankly, it sounds like a very typical Kent album, which can be taken in two ways.

For one, the obvious positive side is that Kent are a damn good band and that means that typical Kent material is highly enjoyable. Plats is the band’s ninth album and none of the previous ones has been even close to bad (the arguable exception being the still-amateurish debut) and by this point it’s pretty clear that Kent can’t really do anything terrible. Joakim Berg’s voice and songwriting is always a winning combination and Plats continues the tradition of a good Kent album. The catchy-as-hell synthpop of Gamla Ullevi and “Ismael”, addictive la-la-las of “Skisser för sommaren”, the dramatic “Ärlighet Respekt Kärlek”, the album’s beautiful and fragile highlight “Passagerare”… all good additions to the Kent discography.

The bad side of being something you could call a typical Kent album is that because it’s typical, it doesn’t have its own identity or proceed to excite more than necessary. With the way it was recorded in record time (let’s not forget that the band also toured like hell after Röd’s release) and then quickly announced and pushed out, it almost feels like a quick break album. Less crafted and more quickly built and then pushed out into the great big world for whatever reason. And while En plats i solen is definitely a good album and carries some worthwhile additions to the band’s catalogue, it never evokes anything larger than that. Perfectly enjoyable yet very little to notice for in the grand scheme of things. Good, but not essential.

Of course, it’s only been a very short time after the album’s release and it certainly isn’t unheard for things to truly reveal their secrets after a period of time, but at the moment the new Kent album doesn’t raise the sort of excited addiction that the past four albums have done after their releases (or when I first heard them). It’s a good album from a great band, but that’s about it. If things change, I’ll let it be known.


Skisser för sommaren

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