[sic] Magazine

Les Big Byrd – Iraq Iran IKEA

They say the language of rock ‘n’ roll is English and it’s hard to argue against that. Amongst other repercussions, this partially explains why many of the Académie française’s quota-driven efforts to create French-language equivalents are total rubbish. But what of Scandinavia though? First up, ignore Sigur Rós (we’re being generous with our definition of Scandinavia) as they just make it all up as they go along. Elsewhere in the region there’s obviously a rich history of greats from, in particular, Sweden (thanks largely only to a better PR machine there) and these bands/artists often sing in English too. To get to the heart of this country’s most fascinating and idiosyncratic synth-pop though you often seem to have to go native. Straddling this nuanced divide are Jocke Åhlund and Frans Johansson of Les Big Byrd, long-time Stockholm musicians with a hand in various projects alongside other Swedish notables from bands such as Peter, Björn and John and The Soundtrack of Our Lives.

Fragile psych-pop of the highest order, the stand-out track from Les Big Byrd’s 2014 debut was unquestionably “Vi Borde Prata Men Det Är För Sent”, which – for non-Swedish ears at least – was only enhanced by that foreign otherworldliness of the lyrics. On the questionably titled follow-up album, Iraq Iran IKEA, Åhlund and Johansson (along with keyboardist Martin ‘Konie’ Ehrencrona and drummer Nino Keller) are torn, unsure whether to stick or twist with similar such statements. This hesitation provides delightful moments such as the swirling majesty of “Mannen Utanför”, an extremely pretty-but-melancholy dose of lightly psychedelic synth-pop, but so too does it deliver stodgier English-language statements like “I Fucked Up I Was A Child” during which a surprisingly clear, full-frontal vocal comes out of the soft haze to add a spacey bent to the otherwise catchy-yet-bland, stadium-sized indie-rocker.

Further complicating linguistic proceedings comes “Geräusche”, which initially translates from the German as “noise” only to then be a misleadingly sleepy kraut-popper that nevertheless ticks along at a fair old lick with big, pillowy keys flumping around the latter place. Simultaneously dreamy yet with a harder kosmische edge, we’re then led into “I Tried So Hard”, a bout of hard-locking space-kraut, chattering FX and electrical drones, which together with insidious guitar and drum grooves in the style of Moon Duo are totally hypnotic, the track’s key patterns dropping out only to rebuild to a crescendo of abrasive strumming and interstellar argy-bargy. Sadly this one-two is as good as it gets for in their wake flounder aimless acoustic jams and indie/electro psych-pop of little note aside from featuring Spacemen 3’s Pete Kember and hence lots of reverb. Going back to the press release, it’s worth remembering at this point that Åhlund claims the album to be “about being older and feeling like you’ve pissed your life away … about regrets and wishing you’d done things another way.” Iraq Iran IKEA is no abject failure, but talk about setting yourself up for a fall, whatever the language.

Best track: “I Tried So Hard”

~Iraq Iran IKEA is released October 12th 2018 via PNKSLM.~