On their third album, Crossing the Rubicon, the Sounds haven't deviated much from the formula of their first two records. Why should they when it works as well as it does? The lively guitar punch, the '80s synthesizers, singer Maja Ivarsson's insistent and distinctive vocals, and above all the hooky but substantial songwriting all added up to something pretty impressive on 2006's Dying to Say This to You. It would have been a mistake to merely copy the template and insert new songs, though, and the band does add some new twists to both the sound and scope of the record.
The Sounds are very much a guilty pleasure. The Swedish five-piece make unapologetically '80s-sounding pop music with a generous helping of synth-y New Wave cool. They are fronted by a stunning blond and tour virtually nonstop in support of their albums. Yet, as indie rock goes, The Sounds are decidedly unhip.
Helsingborg, Sweden’s the Sounds are not literally “crossing the Rubicon” in any conceivable meaning of that expression. They do not appear to have any specific ambitions to overthrow the Roman Republic, for starters. More proverbially, it’s hard to see how they have passed any kind of point of no return, either. Their very idiom – brash, largely bathetic, updated New Wave rock – is based in an inherent desire for return.
The phrase "crossing the Rubicon" is, after all, a cliché, and I wish I didn't feel so compelled to point that out right off. I mean, we're talking about a band called the Sounds, so I reckon that sort of thing is, uh, par for the course. But this is the band's third pass at a long-player, and I can't help but bemoan the lack of top-down inventiveness that stares back before you even get a fingernail into the shrinkwrap.