Release Date: Sep 3, 2013
Record label: Captured Tracks
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Swedish post-punk outfit Holograms' self-titled 2012 debut was icy and severe, pulling no punches when it came to the band's chilly world-view or most immediate reference points. Healthy doses of Factory Records sheen were applied to songs that were strong in their own right, but the influence was immediately noticeable, especially on some of the more Joy Division-borrowing tracks. After a year or so of constant touring, the bandmembers ended up back in their working-class towns on the outskirts of Stockholm, feeling all of the isolation and disillusionment that inspired their first set of songs.
Holograms' debut album stood out in the suddenly crowded field of indie rock/punk crossover acts by marrying tense post-punk melodies to danceable synths, though its lean, lo-fi mix seemed like it might sentence the band to under-the-radar status. Perhaps spurred on by the success of fellow Scandinavian punks Iceage and Lower, Holograms have beefed up that wiry sound, moving the synths out of the way of behemoth fist-raising choruses. A move like that carries the risk of diluting their personality, but the Swedes have stepped it up in the songwriting department.
In Stockholm, there is no scene. At least, there’s no scene like they have in Copenhagen, a community centered around the boutique Posh Isolation label started in 2009 by Christian Stadsgaard and Loke Rahbek. This is the label that launched a thousand Danish hardcore post-punk bands and their synth-noise side projects like Sexdrome, Damien Dubrovnik, Marching Church, Lust For Youth, Vår, Lower, and Iceage-- all of whom share at least one or more members between them.
With an intro torn straight from Savages’ sketchbook of super-bleak landscapes, ‘Forever’ marks an impressive evolution for these brash Swedish punks. Last year’s debut was a skeletal affair borne of nihilistic boredom. This follow-up provides depth and texture that were previously absent, while retaining that greyed-out angst that made their first album so thrilling.
The highly rated eponymous debut album from Holograms introduced the Swedish post-punkers to a far wider audience with its sound, one that attempts to recreate music being played in a church. Whilst the term post-punk is lazily attributed to many artists these days, it is well suited to Holograms, with most obvious comparisons being to The Cure in their early days. Despite that well received debut and ensuing worldwide tour, the boys have now returned home (Farsta, a small suburb of Stockholm); the moderate success doesn’t seem to have changed them from small town boys, with the Spetze brothers (Anton – vocals/guitar and Filip – keyboards) still residing at the family home.
On their self-titled debut, Holograms drew up a map of the less glamorous side of Stockholm they called home. That scrappy, toothy long-player easily sounds like it originated in a place of poverty and political insecurity. Now, these four factory workers-turned-musicians seem less interested in the grit of their roots, instead keener on exploring how they can push past it.
The first few tracks on Forever, the second record by the Swedish band Holograms, will make many listeners feel like they’ve died and gone to post-punk heaven. All the elements are there—ringing guitars, propulsive rhythms, ghostly synths and soaring vocals that hit just the right balance of sneer and whine (and with a European accent to boot!). At its best, Forever delivers the kind of songs you want to crank with the windows down as you speed on a lonely highway.
Forever, the second LP from Holograms, sounds like the product of dudes who religiously watched 120 Minutes, read The Big Takeover and pored through the multiple volumes of Trouser Press Record Guide when they were young. Big guitars ring, basslines thrum vigorously, drums crack with occasional explosions and Anton Spetze wails like Robert Smith after a bad breakup. The Swedish quartet doesn’t shy away from showing off its influences – pre-”Let’s Go to Bed” Cure, the Comsat Angels, the Chameleons, the Sound – but makes the most of its fandom, leveraging its enthusiasm for postpunk arena rock for all it’s worth.
Holograms are very much in vogue, and it’s not just because of Tupac’s sort-of resurrection at Coachella last year. Their veins coarse with raw, angry post-punk, fuelled by the forward propulsion of a Concorde jet engine. Oh, and they’re Swedish, too. Judging by the country’s musical output as of late there seems to be something in the Scandinavian DNA that breeds exciting innovation.Holograms’ debut was a solid, cohesive effort, but it seemed to lack a certain sprinkle of excitement.