❉ The nicest surprise from Sweden since Benny, Bjorn, Anni Frid and Agnetha buried their thirty–year-long hatchet.
Just as The Killers paid a synth led pathway back to the rock records of the eighties on their delightful Hot Fuss debut, this Swedish five-piece turn the needle back to the Velvet Undergrounds/Stooges on a stomping, jumping, guitar riffing ballast of an album.
The Scrags are a musical encyclopedia of seventies/eighties rock references. “If you would sit in a touring van with us for an hour” vocalist Antonion Fryk told WhatYouth “maybe you would hear some stuff from bands like The Fall, Misfits, Neu! and T-Rex.” If you thought punk died with The Libertines and subsequently flogged by the Arctic Monkeys and Greenday, you’re in for a very pleasant surprise, the nicest surprise from Sweden since Benny, Bjorn, Anni Frid and Agnetha buried their thirty –year- long hatchet.
Just as The Killers paid a synth led pathway back to the rock records of the eighties on their delightful Hot Fuss debut, this Swedish five-piece turn the needle back to the Velvet Undergrounds/Stooges on a stomping, jumping, guitar riffing ballast of an album. They largely recorded their sound live on tape, bringing the tropes and energy of a venue to a startling real effect. Fryk bellows and shrieks on Instead of with the colossal command of John Lydon, underlying a pulsating and threatening bass riff (from Joakim Forsgren) and an oscillating synth effect (programmed by Rickard Folke). There’s nothing too fanciful here, nothing too ostentatious, and Anything is a merciful respite of quick and startling guitars running and thrashing the setup it plays in, heavy on vibe, patient on tempo. It’s a fine collection of guitar centred set pieces.
As in keeping with punk tradition, the songs are mercifully short, album closer Void Lodge clocks in at four minutes forty-eight seconds (and it sounds like a Sarah Kane musical psychosis at that!). The remaining are tight and punchy, most averaging at three minutes, tidy in guitar solos, most keeping to that riff centred school of Johnny Ramone, Ron Asheton and Tony Iommi power chord delivery. The choppy and sludgy lick Rasmus Fernström plays on Arrows of Time has a chiming effect on verses, entering into Shadows-like virtuosity on the codas. Cold Wind is an adrenaline ride of skirting psychedelic lines and thrusted vocals, an empowering combo of guitar and vocalist, while Metadone is simply a theatre monster of the best kind. The Night Is Gonna Get Some is a teen angst anthem that calls to the Teenage Kicks and New Rose of the John Peel extraction.
Garage powered Almighty Nature Spirit has the makings of a punk hit, a musical love child between Patti Smith’s veracity and John Cale’s musical temerity. Televise My Eyes, the closest thing on this album to a love ballad, has the strongest melody on the album, as Fryk sings with humility and honesty rather than the empowered technicality heard on Never Looking Back or the record’s title track. Tellingly, Eyes is the strongest song on the album, a pleasant reminder of sombre classics Primal Scream’s Damaged or The Jesus and Mary Chain’s Darklands.
It’s an album that avoids levels of pretention, with only the conceited sci fi fable Invasion Troopers the exception to this rule. Otherwise, it’s one of the best straightforward rock debuts since Hot Fuss.
❉ The Scrags – ‘Anything’ is released on Canadian Indie label The Grizzlar, 29 June 2018.