Words by Arthur Arnold
Often, one might pop on a record to create or emulate a specific feeling. For example, if it was a rare sunny day, and you wanted the sun and its joyous connotations to permeate your ears as well as your eyes, you might blast out a heavy dose of The Avalanches, or almost anything by The Beach Boys.
Moreover, if you’re moody, or sad, there is plenty of music to comfort you or rile you up (indeed, so much music, that I shan’t provide any examples, as if any artists are mentioned that the reader is particularly familiar with, I understand that you might already be moody, or sad, and I don’t wish to affirm your feelings by forcing you to reflect on how much you listen to music of such a nature). Anyway, the point here is that you tend to play music that matches how you feel. Swedish Magazine’s Debut EP ‘Worried Sick’ fits into a category of music that unnervingly disturbs this simple relationship. Through an eclectic blend of post-punk tones, surfing rhythms and villainous lyrics, the EP does not work to relate to its listener, but instead provides raw entertainment through bizarre, farfetched and (some) entirely real stories that provide a soundtrack fit for a cartoon thief, a surfer-noir, or an art house thriller.
The EP opens with ‘Michael Poolside’ that matches Hank Marvin-like guitar stylings with a lyrical account of criminal activity that occurred at ex-television personality Michael Barrymore’s house in 2001. The rhythm, reminiscent of many early 1960s household classics, drives the song forward and ensures that it maintains a pop undercurrent. Simultaneously, as you listen you find yourself – disturbed - singing along to a lyric about somebody’s life coming to the end. Nonetheless, you listen and you listen again. Swedish Magazine’s antics don’t end there, as the tempo increases with ‘Erotic Art’, the energy with which the group could play with live (and let’s keep wishing on that, for now) is demonstrated powerfully. This is when Swedish Magazines sound most like a post-punk group, and when singer Tom Fish brings out a Vic Godard-tinged wailing of apocalyptic energy that develops the unsettling, though enjoyable, sound of the EP as a whole. It is during tracks 3 & 4 that the EP truly comes into its own.
Unlike a great deal of bands that come from a similar post-punk-surfer elk, Swedish Magazines ensure that their sound isn’t one dimensional. Through the creative use of Saxophone on ‘Ghost at the Party’ and Marimba on ‘Wig for the Cat’ the EP stays consistently interesting. Sounds of creepiness and sleaziness, complement the traditional guitar-bass-drums set up. The vocals sit back in the mix, and therefore the songs move as a unit. This adds to the whole sound of eeriness emanating from your cassette player, as you have to really listen close to hear the lyrics. Finally, ‘Big Break Remake’ illustrates the wildest capabilities of Tom Fish’s imagination, as the EP closes on the set of the imaginary remake of TV show Big Break. In this lyrical universe, Bradly Walsh presents the non-existant show, and pest control becomes a necessity on set. Again, Swedish Magazines demonstrate their gloomy ability to incorporate ex-television personalities and shows into a dystopian groove.
There are occasions during ‘Worried Sick’, when Swedish Magazines sound like Vic Godard, Josef K, or even the Allah-Las – but overwhelmingly, these sounds have been mashed together with a fantastic imagination, to create something new. ‘Worried Sick’ is now available on cassette for only six pounds and it really is worth getting to the bottom of.