Holograms aims for beauty

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The made-in-Sweden men of Holograms are learning to get used to the reality that facts sometimes get twisted into strange fiction when music journalists write about them.
When the Stockholm quartet first surfaced in 2012 with an eponymous postpunky debut, the widely regurgitated back story was that members of the band paid for the recording by toiling in a grimy factory straight out of the wastelands of rural Russia. In reality, a couple of members of the group had done time moving boxes around in a book warehouse.

The line on this year’s follow-up, Forever, is that the songs were widely coloured by Holograms’ first experience touring North America. Apparently, after playing dive-bar clubs, sleeping on floors, and living on truck-stop fast food for months, the members of the band returned home to the land of Swedish supermodels and lingonberry fruit-leather completely broke and disillusioned. The experience was seemingly so miserable, it would fuel the creation of songs that, on initial listen, give Joy Division a run for its money in the misery-loves-company sweepstakes.

It’s a pretty great story, in an angst-is-good-for-art way. The only problem is that it’s not really true.

“I have no idea why that connection is being made,” singer-guitarist Anton Spetze says with a laugh on the line from a Washington, D.C., tour stop. “We don’t get inspired by tours, if you know what I mean. I think we are more interested in the idea that you live and let live. It was like how three of us worked in the book warehouse before the first record, which was so damned uninteresting. I suppose you could say, though, that job made us depressed.”

Forever does gloom well, with Holograms continuing to reveal itself as a post-everything guitar band to watch for the future. Featuring spawn-of-the-Stranglers vocals from Spetze and singer-bassist Andreas Lagerström, the album recalls the deliciously gloomy early days of 4AD, from the dark-garden guitars to the intentionally murky production job. Listen carefully, though, and you’ll discover a band that’s not afraid to let small rays of light shine through. A delicious candied-pop underbelly turns “Luminous” into something that lives up to its name, while bright razor-burn guitars help make “Lay Us Down” a great break-of-dawn anthem. Even when Spetze is moaning “I’m so tired” in the brooding, synth-swooped standout “Ättestupa”, he actually sounds like he’s anything but.

“We are depressed sometimes, and sometimes we are really happy,” Spetze says good-naturedly. “I dunno—our songs are pretty nihilistic in a way, but not in a way that’s like ‘Everything sucks!’”

Instead, the goal is to find something positive in a world that sometimes seems more hopeless than Children of Men. Or, if you prefer, working in miserable factories between tours of America where the only thing to look forward to is getting back on the plane.

“Beauty is something that I really strive for as a songwriter,” Spetze says. “What I’m really trying to do is express all the different emotions of life. And if journalists sometimes make up stories, we’re fine with that. It is what it is. It’s just nice that anyone wants to write about us.”

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