'SOS'- Millencolin / Turned Up Louder
For many bands who are approaching their third decade together, the fight to remain at the top of the pile is often a hard-fought one that is rarely won. Yet when a band has a dedicated cult audience to keep them afloat, their reign can remain unchallenged across the decades- and skate punk legends Millencolin are one such band. Now preparing to release their ninth studio album, the Swedish quartet are showing no signs of slowing down on new record ‘SOS’, which flashes the listener by in a burst of pummelling drums and boisterous melodies. With few of the 12 tracks breaking the 3-minute mark, it is anything but an odyssey, yet it is a brilliantly blinding, lightning flash of a record that tackles everything from the pain of your first heartbreak to government corruption, and questions about the true nature of human interaction.
A low rumble of the drums hails the beginning of opener ‘SOS’, which flashes by in a hectic flurry of guitars, galloping like a prize stallion. Yet there is also a buried note of something grander and more orchestral that peeks through in the harmonies trickled through the latter part of the choruses: it is full-bodied, a little brash yet with a perhaps unexpectedly refined edge. However, many of the early parts of the record fail to really hit home- ‘Yanny & Laurel’, which takes its name from the viral auditory illusion that divided the world in May of last year, is a fun little track, with its raucous chorus and distorted vocals that echo the original soundbite, yet it somehow fails to land with the intended impact. Similarly, ‘For Yesterday’ is kept chugging along by its driving lead guitar, yet it fails to build in quite the way one might hope, with surging choruses that promise a tumultuous build up that never seems to appear. That is, until the uplifting gang vocals swoop in in the bridge, which is where the track really picks up with a fist-pumping moment of unity that adds an extra crunch of zest to the final chorus.
There are moments of inspired delight with this record’s early tracks, however. The vocals of ‘Nothing’ carry that much sought-after crackling angst that is left to be desired from so much modern punk music. The bouncier, poppier influences felt on ‘Sour Days’ too lift the track out of the repetitive, chuggy maelstrom and give it a lighter undertone, yet the drums still beat like a pulsing heart at the centre of it all. The clear, bright reverb of the guitar is totally at odds with the dour outlook of the song’s lyrics- an anthem for the powerless yet still hopeful downtrodden if ever there was one. Despite being a band staunchly seated in the punk sphere, glancing off some poppier influences does serve Millencolin well, particularly on tracks such as ‘Reach You’, which tackles the all too familiar subject of chasing one of the beautiful but aloof girls who have tormented musicians, writers and poets for centuries. The composition of the track, in particular the bridge’s cleaner lines makes this a highlight of the record- the perfect soundtrack to many a blossoming teenage romance.
If the early part of the record left a little to be desired, the second half of the record goes from strength to strength. Despite being the shortest track on the album, ‘Do You Want War’ doesn’t run away with itself. Each of the lines is etched with a razor-sharp angst, and the deliberate beat of silence before the crashing down of the final chorus is inspired- if you don’t break at least one limb in the crowd to the final notes of this tune, you’re doing something wrong! Yet while punk music has its roots in anarchy, Millencolin also tackle some hefty issues with this record. The imagery deployed on ‘Trumpets & Poutine’ depicting the human race as part of an orchestra happy to be led astray by a rogue conductor on high is unbelievably powerful, while ‘Caveman’s Land’ is laden with images of tribal infighting amongst early humans that is still worryingly resonant – for anyone questioning why punk hasn’t yet ‘grown up’, this track provokes a need for a more pressing, broader societal and self-reflection. ‘Dramatic Planet’s layers of bright, cutting guitars, driven by a buzzing bassline, overture its comments on society’s obsession with drama, controversy, and the modern culture of celebrity, while ‘Let It Be’ is more effervescent, and in some ways more resonant because of it, with soaring vocals that tinge the peaks of each chorus with a smooth note that is utterly unexpected yet unusually harmonious with the frustration-fuelled lyrics.
Amongst all the gloom and disillusionment, however, there is always solace to be sought, and closer ‘Carry On’ provides just that. Opening with a staccato drum beat that forces you to clap along almost involuntarily, over which builds raucous noodling guitars that fall into place, it is a lively, swinging finale to the record- the feel-good final scene in this surprisingly profound dissection of existence in the modern world. ‘SOS’ is an incredibly fast-paced record that doesn’t suffer rugged edges as a result- it is as measured and deliberate as it is chuggy and raw. It is an utterly unrelenting record that by its closing tracks leaves you breathless, that illustrates that there is just as much going on in the world to be angered and fuelled by no matter how old you become: and therefore punk, by necessity, isn’t dead just yet.
‘SOS’ is due for release on February 15th via Epitaph records.
Check out the video for the album’s title track ‘SOS’ below:
The band will also be embarking on a series of UK and European dates this spring, including an appearance on the Punk In Drublic stage of this year’s Slam Dunk Festival. Dates can be found below:
Apr 23, 2019 - SO36, Berlin, Germany Apr 24, 2019 - Markthalle, Hamburg, Germany Apr 25, 2019 - Schlacht Hof, Wiesbaden, Germany Apr 26, 2019 - Victoria Carlswerk, Cologne, Germany Apr 27, 2019 - Groezrock, Hasselt, Belgium Apr 28, 2019 - Laiterie, Strasbourg, France Apr 29, 2019 - CCO, Lyon, France Apr 30, 2019 - Trabendo, Paris, France May 2, 2019 - Nouveau Monde, Fribourg, Switzerland May 3, 2019 - Live Club, Trezzo Milano, Italy May 4, 2019 - Vidia Club, Cesena, Italy May 5, 2019 - Muffat Halle, Munich, Germany May 25, 2019 – Slam Dunk Festival Leeds, UK May 26, 2019 - Slam Dunk Festival Hatfield, UK June 16, 2019 – Nova Rock Festival, Austria
Pre orders for 'SOS' are available at: http://www.millencolin.com/
Connect with Millencolin via Twitter: @Millencolin
Connect with Millencolin via Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Millencolin/