Monday 10 May 2021

Electric Boys - Upside Down (2021)

Country: Sweden
Style: Funk Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 30th April, 2021
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I remember Electric Boys as a funk metal band. Their genre was kind of given away by the title of their debut album, Funk-O-Metal Carpet Ride, but it was there in the songs too. It's here as well but not to a similar degree, even on funkier songs like Never Again Your Slave and The Dudes & The Dancers. This is hard rock, with as many hints towards glam as to funk. In fact, the seven minute instrumental opener, Upside Down Theme, is often a lot closer to Boston than the Dan Reed Network. It's good stuff, don't get me wrong, with some inventive riffs and lively drums, but it's not particularly funky. There's even a section that dabbles in reggae, which is actually really cool.

The vocals of Conny Bloom kick in with Super God, the second song, and from that point, I heard quite a lot of Ziggy Stardust era David Bowie, even if it starts out funky. That's Bowie in the chorus for sure and the backing vocals underline it as they often do throughout the album. When Bloom shifts into an Ian Hunter approach on She Never Turns Around, the Beatles-esque singalong behind him is phrased just like Mott the Hoople would have done it.

I think this is why I like this so much. The band shift around rather a lot here, from Bowie to the Stones to Mott, but they do it consistently across the line-up. When Bloom goes for a Mick Jagger approach on Tumblin' Dominoes (as if the title didn't give that away anyway), the music is ahead of him, even if guitarist Martin Thomander often leads the band into more of a Hanoi Rocks cover of the Stones than a straight cover. This isn't stripped down like Tumblin' Dice; it's well crafted in the studio with layers of vocals and some neat guitar effects.

Now, this is heavier than any of those bands got and Bloom never attempts any accents, but it's fair to say that it looks back musically a lot further than I expected, with much of that in the vocal phrasing of Bloom that's recognisably that of the singers I've already mentioned and sometimes recognisably an Iggy Pop approach, especially on Interstellafella, where the snarl that was present on the more Mick Jagger songs comes out full force. However, he doesn't stay there. There's still some '80s funk metal, with its chanting and it's near rap, and the band shifts between the two eras like gears.

The funk is most obvious in the rhythm section, because when Bloom does choose to take that road on songs like Never Again Your Slave, Andy Christell's bass comes utterly to life, like a dog when you open a bag of treats, and Niklas Sigevall perks up too. Both of them are clearly capable musicians and they go wherever any of the songs want to go, but they're clearly more vibrant on Never Again Your Slave than on softer songs like She Never Turns Around that give more opportunities to Thomander for his guitar solo and to the na na na backing vocalists.

And all this leaves me torn.

As is becoming a trend, I remember the Electric Boys in their early years, from Funk-O-Metal Carpet Ride and Groovus Maximus in the late eighties and early nineties. I wasn't the biggest funk metal fan in the world, but they made good music and I liked their style. This does go there, on She Never Turns Around and Globestrutter, but mostly I think an old school Electric Boys fan might find it far too hard rock, with too much glam and without anywhere near enough funk.

However, someone open to a change in that approach ought to dig this. That funk is still there and it's done well, but the songs that play glammier or punkier or simply more rock 'n' roll are done well too. I dug songs like The Dudes & The Dancers, which runs on a mildly funky bass line and aims for talkative verses but returns to the Mott approach for another singalong chorus. It doesn't hurt that there's an inventive instrumental midsection that's almost prog jazz. It may not be funk-o-metal, but it's a damn good song. And this is a pretty good album too.

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