Thursday 14 March 2019

Lindbloom - Lady Opium (2019)

Country: Sweden
Style: Jazz Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 8 Mar 2019
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Apparently I just can't keep away from Swedish bands at the moment! Here's one more that sounds nothing like any of the others. Lindbloom are named for guitar player Magnus Lindbloom who leads this jazz rock outfit and he's an accomplished musician indeed.

Then again, like any viable jazz band, so are the rest of the band, who have played for people as varied as Frank Zappa, Yngwie J. Malmsteen and Joe Lynn Turner. While Lindbloom's guitar is always the centrepiece, the other band members get plenty of opportunities here. The title track kicks off with a twenty second drum solo from Morgan Ågren and Approximation of Bliss starts out like a Jon Lord solo album with some glorious heavy seventies-style organ from Samuel Olsson.

There's a lot going on here, as you might expect for a jazz rock band. The album could be divided up into heavier and softer tracks or into vocal ones and instrumentals, but it's really not that easy. There's a lot going on in each track!

For instance, the title track may kick off with drums but, when the rest of the band join in, we get all funky. The solos remind of Frank Zappa but it all wraps up with a keyboard run that's more reminiscent of Focus. And sure, Approximation of Bliss starts out with keyboards, but a crunchy riff shows up as if this feels like being metal rather than just rock. Instead it goes funky again with wild vocals that could be Zappa-influenced but might be a little more Primus. And it gets heavy towards the end with a neatly liquid pyschedelic guitar spilling all over it. Psychedelic, man!

My True Love is an instrumental that's surely as soft as the earlier tracks weren't but the softness of the overlay, mostly courtesy of the keyboards, contrasts wonderfully with the frantic bass and drums. Lindbloom's guitar is happy to move back and forth from soft to frantic. Is this love or sex? I'm half convinced that it's both.

The other really soft song on offer is My Own Way, which is a velvet covered lounge song, ladies and gentlemen. It's another instrumental but it's much more laid back than My True Love, not least because of its long saxophone solo, and it doesn't seem to have any obvious underlying theme. Perhaps the whole point is contrast, given that these two softer tracks are separated by Junkyard Dogs and bookended by Approximation of Bliss and Snakebite Kiss, which are all playful vocal pieces.

That said, I have no idea what Junkyard Dogs is really about and am pretty convinced that it's not about anything at all. Surely it's all about finding that groove, which it does quickly with a Stevie Ray Vaughan-style opening solo. Like Approximation of Bliss, Snakebite Kiss sounds like it could be a Frank Zappa song if only it wanted to be rude or subversive instead of playful.

It's almost impossible not to like this, because it's generally perky and cheerful and incredibly well played. The question is whether it's going to slip into the background or not. Perhaps that's the reason for Göran Edman's presence. He's a fine and versatile vocalist and he does a capable job here, but I wondered whether the album needs him. As music, I don't think it does because there's so much going on instrumentally. However, it's probably his vocals that keep us paying attention rather than just sinking into grooves.

One of these days I'm going to find a Swedish album that's generic. There's good stuff up there and bad stuff too, but none of it seems to be boring. I guess there's something in the water up there. Given this and some of what I've been reviewing lately, maybe someone dropped some acid in there too.

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