Album Review: Who Killed Harry Houdini? by I'm from Barcelona
Very Good, Based on 3 Critics
Paste Magazine - 88 Based on rating 8.8/10
Colossal band doesn't want to grow up"In my heart, still a kid,” Emanuel Lundgren sings on Who Killed Harry Houdini? the new album by Swedish group I’m From Barcelona. In fact, he sings the line in two different songs.The first time is on “Mingus,” a contemplation of an old friend who’s settled down in suburbia with a wife, kid and “four-wheel drive.” With horror, Lundgren reacts, “Oh my god.” He sings the line a second time on “Rufus,” a plea to an imaginary 10-foot dog from the singer’s childhood to come and rescue him from the fate glimpsed in the earlier song. He wants to make an escape worthy of Houdini, his childhood idol.
I'm from Barcelona's first album was called Let Me Introduce My Friends; the follow-up could be titled Let Me Introduce My Melancholy Friends. If the debut was giddy, innocent, and lighter than air, Who Killed Harry Houdini? is glum, confused, and troubled. Instead of songs about stamp collecting and the joys of making music, you get "Music Almost Killed Me" and "Ophelia," which has the telling lyric "He didn't believe in anything/He didn't believe in joy." Instead of cheerful songs about oversleeping and chicken pox, heavy stuff like death and ghosts and tears dominate the lyrics.
The band’s sophomore album, Who Killed Harry Houdini?, relies on many of the same tricks that Let Me Introduce My Friends leaned on (toy horns, boisterous group vocals), but it lacks a single as catchy as the band’s best, “Collection of Stamps.” When I’m From Barcelona are in full twee mode, like on “Paper Planes,” “Music Killed Me” and “Ophelia,” the album moves on at an amicable pace with amenable sounds. But lyrically, red herrings like the random Cosby Show reference in “Paper Planes” sink any hope of a performer-listener connection. As the cover of Harry Houdini indicates, however, this is a serious record, and downcast plodders dominate the album.