I’m sure at least a few readers have heard the highly lauded debut album by Mando Diao. I think it is fair to say that expecting them to make any broad strides between that first album and its follow up so quickly is asking far too much. So keep that in mind when listening to Hurricane Bar. The band hasn’t really done anything jaw-droppingly different to their sound, but personally I like it that way. Among all of the bands in the so-called “rock revival,” the majority seem to focus on the trashy, garage rock side. Of course, there is nothing wrong with that, but after a while attitude alone just doesn’t cut it. Fortunately, Mando Diao know the value of melody, and it is instantly obvious.
The band has the raw edge of 1960s garage bands (the Animals, the Kingsmen, etc.), but they also have the musical sensibilities of the British Invasion. Simply put, they aren’t afraid to drape fantastically catchy melodies over the basic rock and roll backdrop. “God Knows” has one of the most ear-pleasing melodies I have heard from any rock band this century. Especially when sung by part-time lead singer Björn in a suave, almost sexy croon. Contrasted with Björn’s velvety pipes are the unbridled wails of Gustaf, the group’s second lead singer. Between the two, the band seems to strike a balance between their seemingly contradictory styles: the composed and the reckless. It doesn’t matter whether you shout or sing along with the lyrics, you still can’t help but make some sort of noise. I hate to use clichéd terms, but Mando Diao are damn infectious.
“Down in the Past” is a driving, pulsating number, reaching a towering crescendo in the choruses as Björn’s vocals stretch higher, accompanied by a swell of organ and trailed by a guitar solo that is actually good. Such a solo is a rare feat these days, finding the odd middle ground between pointless wanking about and lifeless scale exercises. The lyrics reflect the youthful, mod influence that Mando Diao so proudly displays. The songs are full of faithless girls, oppressive small towns, and a desperate desire to just break out. The band isn’t solely dominated by simple emotions, there is also an intellectual slant that still sounds apropos, such as “I met her in a crowded room where the bookshelves help you and knowledge takes your hand.”
The reason I would choose this band over the many retro-rock revivalists (I think I just dry-heaved writing that) is because they are a complete package. They have youthful energy, a firm grasp on melody, a disdain for the blasé, and enough intelligence to know what blasé means. Too often bands sacrifice one or more of these to work on the one that is selling the best, which is usually just the youthful exuberance and disdain … not for anything in particular, just disdain in that sexually frustrated teenager sort of way. Mando Diao is in a good place to finally bring rock and roll back to the cultural apex it once reached, if they can just shove the damned Strokes out of the way.