First impressions of … Marching Band’s ‘Pop Cycle’A track-by-track review of “Pop Cycle,” the second full-length release from Marching Band, Sweden’s best-kept English-language secret. For fans of Arcade Fire, the Wannadies and The Boy Least Likely To.
Not since the Wannadies has Sweden produced such an overwhelmingly brilliant (and English-speaking) pop outfit as Marching Band. This indie rock group, which will undoubtedly soon be on every music geek’s “must-hear” lists, is busy finalizing its second full-length release, “Pop Cycle.”
Here are my initial reactions to the new tracks, which everyone will be able to enjoy this spring (details below):
1. “Another Day”
With an intro as intriguing and grandiose as those penned by Pete Townshend in and around “Quadrophenia,” this track (and, subsequently, album) was already off to a good start when the song really got going: Wow. You could have nearly knocked me over with a feather. This is sincerely album-of-the-year material. No joke.
2. “It Will Never Slip”
Wait a second, who slipped on the new Rogue Wave record? I mean, I know I’m listening to Marching Band, but the similarities in sound between the two groups is almost too close. Perhaps a better question would be: Who’s ripping off whom?
3. “Uncomfortably Numb”
Taking a couple steps — definitely not leaps — away from today’s West Coast indie pop, “Uncomfortably Numb” finds Marching Band rocking the vast, open-air quality of yesteryear’s college radio hits. Think late ’80s, when everything in the world save for rampant commercialism seemed to be going “just swell.” Don’t misconstrue what I’m saying: I like this side of Marching Band as well.
4. “It is Hidden”
Another radio-ready single-in-waiting. This duo (in the studio at least) has really hit on a winning formula. … It’s probably time for one of those annoying-as-heck-but-quite-useful reviewer comparison clichés: “It is Hidden” sounds like a chance meeting between Big Country and Arcade Fire in some backwater dive bar — where the only thing on the jukebox were INXS and Big Star 45s. I’m embarrassed to have written that, but hopefully you’re starting to get a clearer picture of how alluring the Marching Band sound is.
5. “It’s Not Your Dream (But His)”
Think back to the feeling you’ve gotten on the first day of spring (actual, not calendar-dictated) each and every year. The cabin fever-induced fog of winter lifts and suddenly everything in the universe makes sense once again. Now, if you were to capture said feeling in a Mason jar and somehow lend it a voice, you’d have this gorgeous, Dealership-esque track. All smiles here.
6. “When I’m in a Change”
Following a slightly frustrating lead-up (something about the change-ups just bothers me), “When I’m in a Change” blossoms into quite the awe-inspiring piece of music. Another solid track from Marching Band.
7. “Never Underestimate”
Well, there comes a time with almost every album where you sort of feel like the group is lost at sea for a spell. This is Marching Band’s disposable mid-album number — not that bad, but definitely not that good either.
8. “Pink Elephant”
Hallelujah! A swift return to form!
On some of Arcade Fire’s more “pastoral” hits, I tend to envision them sitting out in a field with really nice clothes on. Suits, even. I’m starting to get that vibe right about now. Very nice.
Aside from an intense, Brian May-inspired axe solo, not much distinguishes “Everyman” from this album’s earlier winners. (“Everysong” is more like it, right? … Right?) Anywho, decent enough for my eager ears.
Bonus B-side: “Something Stops”
It’s unclear whether or not this track will make the final album cut* — or if, like the B-sides recorded during the sessions for “Spark Large,” it will only be available if you buy the album through iTunes — but … it’s kinda nice. Hopefully all Marching Band completists will be able to get their grubby little paws on it.
*After examining the "Pop Cycle" album art, it does appear that "Something Stops" is indeed on the album — and the tracklist I was given is way off.... Who knows, it may change again before the release date for all we know.
NEWS TO USE
“Pop Cycle” is set to be released in May on Urband & Lazar Records. Watch www.marchingband.se details and, while you’re there, download free MP3s from past Marching Band records.