In much the same way that Interpol quickly wearied of questions about Joy Division (and Editors subsequently got tired of queries about Interpol), Shout Out Louds seem destined to grow testy when faced with yet another reporter who wants to talk about a certain long-running English pop band. It all started when the Swedish five-piece rereleased its 2003 debut, Howl Howl Gaff Gaff, for the international market in 2005, but it's Shout Out Louds' most recent album, Our Ill Wills, that has generated the greatest number of comparisons. In naming lead off single "Tonight I Have to Leave It" NPR.org's Song of the Day on August 17, Christopher Porter wrote, "Hey, Shout Out Louds: The Cure's Robert Smith called, and he wants his song back," noting that, with its rolling toms and ebullient acoustic-guitar strumming, the tune sounds like an homage to "In Between Days".
Eric Edman has heard this before, and he says he doesn't quite get it. "It's funny, because none of us are real big Cure fans," the Shout Out Louds drummer insists when the Straight calls him at home in Stockholm. "Of course we've listened to them, but I don't even have a Cure album at home. I think it's about Adam [Olenius]'s voice–it resembles Robert Smith's voice a lot, and the way he sings as well."
If that's true, then–in the case of Our Ill Wills, at least–Olenius sounds like Smith at his most dour. The disc has its undeniably peppy moments ("Normandie" has a clap-along beat that won't be ignored), but the lyrics are filled with tear stained-diary questions: Why don't you give love? Is there time left for love? I haven't said too much, have I? Olenius is no Steven Morrissey, although the Smiths are one British band that Edman does acknowledge as an influence.
That would be sort of hard to deny, given that Our Ill Wills includes a song called "Meat Is Murder". It is not, however, a cover version of the Smiths' heavy-handed animal-rights anthem of 1985. "It's a reference, in the lyrics, to a song that's playing," Edman notes. "It's not about the Smiths song, but it is mentioned in the lyrics. And it's a great title."
That track features little more than Olenius singing over a single acoustic guitar, but its unplugged sound isn't representative of Our Ill Wills. Produced by Bjrn Yttling of Peter Bjorn and John, the rest of the album is a lush affair, gilded with strings and keyboards, and in marked contrast to the relatively spare sound of the jangly guitar-driven Howl Howl Gaff Gaff. "We built a lot different than we did last time," Edman says. "Last time there were five of us standing in a studio playing together and, like, doing it time after time until we had the song smoother, and then we added some guitars. More like a rock band. And now we're more like, I don't know, a pop band."
A fine one, at that: Our Ill Wills seems destined to end up on more than one critic's best-of-2007 list. It's not quite The Head on the Door, but that comparison is probably best avoided.
Shout Out Louds play Richard's on Richards on Friday (October 12).