Mando Diao


Written by: TL on 20/05/2014 23:15:05

While I haven't been along for more than the last part of the ride, Mando Diao has reportedly been gaining success as sort of a continental answer to the retro-obsessed indie of British bands like Kasabian or Arctic Monkeys, breaking through all the way back with 2002's "Bring 'Em In" and 2004's "Hurricane Bar" and peaking so far with 2009's "Give Me Fire!", which is the album that got me into them. The Swedish quartet has kept away from the studio album game proper for five years though (instead releasing a Greatest Hits and "Infruset", a record on which they set background music to Swedish poetry). Perhaps they needed a break after growing so steadily to festival-headlining size, yet seventh album "Aelita" (or "Ælita", as it is spelled with the proper Scandinavian character) marks an end to their silence as well as a bit of a twist on their style.

Up to this point, each successive album has marked a development in the band's very 60's inspired sound, where the soul and blues of old coursed through an often energetic rock soundscape with spirited vocal performances contributed by frontmen Gustaf Norén and Björn Dixgård. The Beatles have been claimed as inspirations, while I remember thinking of The Doors and Rolling Stones as well while listening to the previous stuff, but here on "Ælita" the band takes a step forward in time, up into the electronic era of the early 80's, deploying icy synths and spacey keys and effects to create a sound that almost - almost - has me thinking of disco on occasion.

Opener "Black Saturday" is the clear cut single with a driving beat and catchy refrain, and the song has understandably been compared to Billy Idol, just as the later "Money Doesn't Make You A Man" could. Later on, the calmly lumbering "If I Don't Have You" has my thoughts flying towards Tom Jones balladry and "Baby" continues in that vein, albeit embedded in electronics that sound like they belong either in the old or the new Tron movie - I can't quite decide. In any case, the record is peculiar as a whole, the way its fabels are fairly poppy in the sense that they're refrain-centric, yet they don't seem the least bit concerned with the modern crowd's attention span, as the album allows more than half its songs to last between five and eight minutes.

Except for "Black Saturday", "Money Doesn't Make You A Man" and the late "Romeo", the remaining tracks are almost exclusively mid-to-low tempo and it feels like the band has been most occupied with exploring the eclectic vintage moods they conjure up on the various songs, and the fact that there are recognisable choruses is "merely" a consequence of the band being too seasoned and conventional to leave such out. They're a poppy component on a record that otherwise doesn't seem to care for being poppy, although it also doesn't stretch to make it's various atmospheres inaccessible either. It's simply the sort of calm and confident record a grown up band writes when they feel like experimenting, and for the most part "Ælita" is an experiment that's drenched in enough coolness to feel immersive and convincing.

That said, the long stretch of slower songs across the middle is - cynically speaking - not suitable listening for just any mood, and one does miss a bit of the wild energy that burst through on the completely different "Give Me Fire!", which sounded entirely analogue and almost like a live album. There's a bit of a feeling of "style over content" on here, which is alright because the style is unique enough to make a listen worthwhile, but as always in such cases it does feel a bit like there's a distance between you as listener and the heart behind the songs. With that disclaimed however, it's safe to say that "Ælita" is a successful and interesting experiment that hasn't done anything to quench my desire to get to see Mando Diao one day.


Download: Black Saturday, If I Don't Have You, Money Doesn't Make You Mad,
For The Fans Of: Kasabian, Arctic Monkeys, White Lies, Wild Beasts

Release date 23.04.2014
Music De La Santa

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