Sweden offers more than synth pop with Holograms

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The Swedish music scene, which was famously hot around the globe at the beginning of the last decade, is once again churning out breakout artists at an impressive pace. What’s changed is that, unlike the ’00s rush that gave us the Hives, Sahara Hotnights, Division of Laura Lee, and the Soundtrack of Our Lives, none of these acts seem to be wielding guitars.

Instead, it’s synth programmers who are capturing all the attention, whether you’re talking the ethereal dreamers in Niki and the Dove or the fabulously enigmatic Deer Tracks.

The natural question, then, for Holograms singer-bassist Andreas Lagerström is whether or not he and his bandmates are alone in carrying the Marshall-stamped flag back in the land of lingonberries, Volvos, and marble-mouthed Muppet chefs. Evidently not one to coat things in socker, he acknowledges that his post-whatever punk outfit isn’t the only group slinging six-strings on the home front, but suggests there’s a reason most like-minded acts are toiling in obscurity.

“Of course there are rock bands, but most of them suck,” Lagerström says drily in impeccable English, on the line from a Raleigh, North Carolina, tour stop. “Most of the bands from Sweden who are having success internationally are mostly electronic. I think it’s probably because they are following acts like the Knife and Robyn—stuff like that. Sweden isn’t really big in rock music or punk right now.”

Still, there are acts on the verge of breaking out.

“There are some bands that we really like, like Westkust, which is doing a real noisy shoegaze-y thing with a female singer,” the bassist says. “They are really great—we’re trying to book some shows with them in Sweden for this fall.”

Holograms are also pretty great, the group’s eponymously titled debut disc suggesting that Lagerström and his bandmates—singer-guitarist Anton Spetze, synth player Filip Spetze, and drummer Anton Strandberg—are aiming for something higher than three-chord punk songs about hating everything including the police, their mothers, and watermelon-flavoured Jolly Ranchers. The bellowing kickoff track on Holograms, “Monolith”, recalls a brief but glorious time when the Stranglers were one of the most captivatingly belligerent bands in spit-soaked England, while the sinewy “Apostate” is angular agit-funk replete with the kind of rough edges that made the Gang of Four first-wave legends.

“What I wanted to do was use the synthesizer a lot in the band,” the bassist says. “That was the main idea behind Holograms—to do something that was also personal, that I could be proud of.”

Holograms also leaves no doubt the group’s members can play, whether it’s Strandberg putting on a one-man drum clinic in “Chasing My Mind” or the snaky Korg work that informs the blank-generation pop of “Orpheo”. What also stands out is that it all sounds bleaker than Interpol crossed with Berlin in November, which might explain why Holograms is one of those bands that people like to think of as being darker than it is. Consider the oft-repeated tale of the group coming together. Every second story has suggested that the band’s members were toiling away in a decrepit factory in a rundown town that looked a lot like the asshole of Sweden. That they were actually unloading books in a warehouse just outside of Stockholm long ago ceased to be relevant.

“The factory thing is pretty weird—we had nothing to do with that,” Lagerström says with a laugh. “But the real story is a lot less romantic, I guess.”

Holograms plays the Media Club on Monday (September 17).

Follow Mike Usinger on the Tweeter at twitter.com/MikeUsinger.

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