We Got Ways #5: LÁ–GNHALSMOTTAGNINGEN
LÖGNHALSMOTTAGNINGEN — Öron Näsa EP (555 Records, Slumberland Records)
Mimicking earlier eras is not merely a current trend in punk. The first band to transform DISCHARGE from an influence into a template was post-MOB 47 Swedish thrashers DISCARD, whose lone EP Death From Above was released in 1990, when I was just eight years old and you members of today’s DIS-bands were still swimming in your mums’ placentas. Mob 47 was, of course, an early popularizer of the Discharge sound — though they had not yet thought to fully plagiarize Discharge’s art and lyrics too — and is, along with ANTI-CIMEX and the SHITLICKERS, the holy trinity of what we have long-called “Swedish-style HC.” In other words, for hardcore to sound “Swedish,” it must ultimately sound like Discharge.
Except, like any other truism, this handy platitude helps us forget as much about Swedish hardcore as it helps us to understand. In the same year that Anti-Cimex was in the market for all the uranium you’ve got, a Swedish band called MISSBRUKARNA put out a tape called Krigets Gentlemän, while another Swedish band called ABSURD put out a now incredibly rare EP — so rare I would cheerfully hand over any of my internal organs in exchange for an original copy — called Blodig Stad. Neither Absurd nor Missbrukarna appears overtly obsessed with the Discharge template. Instead, both bands’ output is perfectly nestled in that heavenly space where “punk” and “hardcore” blur; their raw-yet-tuneful music helped create a cult-within-a-cult Swedish hardcore template of their own.1
Fast-forward to 2008, when two friends-in-twee — Stewart from the noise pop institution BOYRACER and Martin from THE FAINTEST IDEAS — came up with the seemingly unlikely idea of forming a Swedish-style hardcore punk band. Just as enigmatic was the band’s mouthful of a name: LÖGNHALSMOTTAGNINGEN. When I first heard about the EP, I was full of questions. What did it mean that some pop heads wanted to make a Swedish HC record? Was it going to be D-beat? Was it going to be awesome? Embarrassing? Actually just a twee record? Another dull crust record? The idea started to make more sense after some internet sleuthing revealed that Martin is in fact a Swede long obsessed with classic Swedish punk and hardcore. And of course, I already knew that Stewart loves distortion. Intrigued by the incongruity of it all, and a P-NISSARNA reference in an online review, I sent off for their first EP Öron Näsa.
Fast-forward again to 2014, and Öron Näsa is still on regular rotation in the We Got Ways bunker. The record’s sleeve — a grainy jobber on various colors of paper — pulls off the classic DIY fucked-up-and-photocopied look almost too well, veering into slapdash territory. Meanwhile, the vinyl features the sound I crave most in this stupid world: raw, in-the-red guitar squealing, spastic drum bashing, and some crazy person shouting at me in a language that I don’t understand.
For whatever reason, zillions more bands have been content to mimic the sound perfected by the Swedish HC holy trinity (to review: Cimex, Shitlickers, Mob 47) rather than to notice their bouncier, snottier cousins. Öron Näsa, on the contrary, is a rare contemporary record that captures the most delightful qualities of the Absurd school of Swedish hardcore. It is fast without being full-bore thrash, it is lo-fi and raw without being tuneless, and, like most of my favorite music, it is as much a punk record as it is a hardcore record. (And, unlike much post-Criminal Trap Swedish HC, it is never, ever, ever a metal record.) This is Swedish hardcore that — happily! — doesn’t even know that crust happened. There are songs for mixtapes on this EP, my friends.
There is absolutely no new musical ground broken on Öron Näsa. Still, the EP succeeds on the je ne sais quoi of two punks who seemingly couldn’t wait to get into a garage and bash out some primitive Absurd worship, and then press it in a too-small quantity with poorly photocopied sleeves. Maybe the sound isn’t new, but the feeling of the record is one of exploration, experimentation, and the having of kicks — and what is punk if not these things? — rather than the stultifying pretention of so many “cool” bands aiming to mimic popular sounds.
Listen to “Jävlar Igen” by Lögnhalsmottagningen:
By definition, treating an earlier band/sound as a template or overwhelming influence strongly lends itself to the creating of generic sounds2 but this doesn’t by definition have to lead to dreary and uninspiring music. We should applaud and not belittle any band that is capable of creating something great in a relatively limited framework. Because despite what the haters say, I am as convinced as ever that punk as a form is neither exhausted nor easily exhaustable. This is why we’re the punks! We don’t want to listen to experimental jazz prog!3 Still, so many bands that go the retro route are incredibly boring. Why why why but why?! As a fanatic of punk music, a 35-year old genre that largely comprises bands that sound like other bands, I have long been trying to put into words the razor-thin difference between good, life-affirming bands-that-sound-like-other-bands and boring, brain-numbing bands-that-sound-like-other-bands. Is it a matter of songwriting? A matter of perfecting the template? Pushing the boundaries of that template (without ever becoming a free-form band)? Honestly, after nearly two decades of listening to punk and hardcore, I don’t have an easy answer to that question. But perhaps another fifty or a hundred listens to Öron Näsa will help us figure it out together.
One-time pressing of 300 hand-numbered copies with two different sleeve variations (the “man strapped to bed” sleeve and the “fighting roller derby girls” sleeve). 75 copies on white paper with hand-colored sleeves. 225 on colored paper (I’ve seen red, green, purple, and blue) with no hand coloring. Unsolicited opinion: the “man strapped to bed” sleeve is cooler looking.
Lögnhalsmottagningen has a few other EPs, and while all of them are worth a listen none of them reach the blissful perfection of Öron Näsa. Accept no substitute.
I briefly mention Totalitär in this essay. This is no accident. It is my belief that Totalitär’s unparalleled genius comes precisely from their ability to take the Swedish D-Beat school and blend it with the bouncier, punkier Swedish stuff. That is to say, Totalitär is a glorious amalgamation of both of the impulses in early Swedish hardcore that I discuss above. And, along with the Ramones, Totalitär is one of the bands to which I point to show that it is possible to be endlessly creative within a limited genre framework. That is to say, it is not in spite of their formal restrictions that Totalitär wrote awesome songs, it is because of those restrictions. I’ll just come right out and say it: it is my opinion that Totalitär is the perfect hardcore punk band. Stay tuned for an upcoming We Got Ways in which I review every single Totalitär record. Spoiler alert: they’re all ragers.
Listen to “Bodybuilder” by Lögnhalsmottagningen:
1This is not to say Missbrukarna and Absurd didn’t know or care about Discharge. One look at Absurd’s mushroom cloud art should dispel the notion that these particular Swedes were any less susceptible to the powers of Fight Back than the rest of us. Missbrukarna in particular got thrashier with every recording; their first songs (from a 1980 split EP with a band no one cares about called Panik) are pure punk, while some of their final songs are clearly more in line with those of other early international HC bands that worshiped at Discharge’s studded altar. To be sure, Missbrukarna’s recorded output doffs its cap at Discharge more than once, a fact that TOTALITÄR noticed — and mimicked — better than any band. Perhaps my point would be clearer if I merely stated that Missbrukarna and Absurd cannot accurately be described as D-beat bands, their songs are often bouncy (rather than “pummeling”), and their vocals never hint at the gruffness that bands like SVART PARAD and BOMBENFALL would later make synonymous with the Swedish sound.
2That is to say, sounds of a certain genre.
3Except for when we do, but I’m not here to talk about that.
[Thanks to KBD Records for the MP3’s!