Club K – Let M Shake

by David O’Sullivan

club-k_let-m-shakeLet M Shake is the third release from Swedish band Club K, and their first with Malmo-based record label Small Bear Records. Starting out as a Frank Zappa-inspired high school project between Anton Linderoth and Samuel Johansson in the small town of Kristianstad, Club K emerged onto the Swedish music scene in 2011 as a seven-piece jazz funk troupe. Two releases followed in 2013 and 2014 with Ljup Music, a small Swedish label, including their self proclaimed “best/worst debut in the history of music” – Det er ikke din skyld (It’s not your fault). The eclecticisms, jazziness, and wryness of the early Club K releases carry through to Let M Shake, albeit in a more accessible way.

The instrumental opener on the album, Shake, is reminiscent of Club K’s debut, which was predominantly instrumental in nature. Most notably, it includes an organ melody that serves as the backbone to the track. This organ sound is heavy throughout the entire album. Club K follow a long lineage of Swedish musicians that have adopted the organ as central to their musical approach.

Bo Hansson, in particular, is often looked towards as a quasi-psych godfather who proved that the organ could be used as an instrument within relatively popular and mainstream music genres. His 1970 concept album Music Inspired By Lord of The Rings may be considered as a cornerstone work for the instrumental prog-psych genre, and Club K have undoubtedly taken a leaf from his book in their own work. This is telling, as it is through the instrumental tracks, and the proficiency and technicality of Club K’s playing that Let M Shake is most appealing.

Tutan, Come On! is the second instrumental offering. A woozy gypsy influenced song, Tutan… is initially reminiscent of gypsy punk band Gogol Bordello, before the track turns abruptly into a surf song at midpoint, and ends with the drowned-out sound of a gong. It is indicative of the band’s willingness to surprise the listener by quite casually spanning multiple genres within three minutes. In a slightly disappointing way, Let M Shake is not all gong-heavy surf gypsy tunes.

Flower Power is an unashamed attempt at a full on pop hit, with crunchy guitar lines and a repetitive chorus, it could easily sit quite comfortably on an early Los Campesinos! album. Flower Power is an instantly memorable and danceable track, however to a certain extent waters down the real quality of Club K – their unpredictability and technical musical brilliance. The greatest fault in the album arises by way of the tracks where Club K have attempted to become more accessible, and stylized as an ‘indie jazz’ band rather than a ‘jazz funk’ group. This is most clear through some of the lyrics on the tracks, and their new found bombastic pop approach.

On Flower Power, the male led vocal begins with “I wont stop till I’m done/hit me with your laser gun”.Additionally, on mid album track She’s Okay the lyrics are borderline cringe-worthy, the singer reciting “I think I am in love again / with a girl I met back in Amsterdam / I saw her face in a magazine and knew that she was mine / I wish I was a millionaire / so I could pay that girl for a love affair”.

In fairness, it’s no doubt difficult to write lyrics in different language to your own, but on the other hand, there’s been plenty of quality English lyrics penned by Swedes over the years. They could further quite easily be representative of Club K’s satirical Devo-like approach to song writing, as seen previously on their I’m a WhaleEP, where they quite literally mused what life would be like if one was a whale.

Most likely however, these songs show a desire on the band’s behalf to shed some elements of their jazz funk roots to become more appealing to the greater populace. Ironically it is these jazz funk roots, and the sound of all the instruments on the album – the organ, the guitars, the slap bass, the keyboard, the drums, and the accordion – working together that renders Club K most interesting. The production on the album is also consistently excellent, where everything is always sounding quite tight and clean.

One must be careful to write off all vocal led tracks on the album. Bossa Nova, led by the female vocals of Nora Hedberg, is somewhat of a dreamy track, Hedberg’s voice complementing the xylophone parts of the song quite nicely. A chorus of “ la-la-la-la”s end the track, proving that the voices within Club K work better together rather than on a single level. Bossa Nova and succeeding track Tengil have tinges of fellow Swedes Dungen’s sound to them, particularly by way of the guitars, which tend to get louder towards the end of the album.

Things reach a peak on Van Gogh, where the guitars are abrasive and forefront in the mix, complemented by a bouncy bass line and Hedberg’s cryptic lyrics, postulating: “Are you someone that I could see/taking copies of your own key”. The track sees Club K achieve a state where they are equally accessible, strange, and technically brilliant. Let M Shake is an album that leads the listener to appreciate the strangeness of Club K, and one can only hope that this element of strangeness and technicality remains, without straying to far down the path of accessibility.

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Courtesy of The Happy Blog

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