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This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… Stockholm Monsters March 6, 2021

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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I was surprised recently going through the list of groups that have been covered under This Weekend to find Stockholm Monsters hadn’t been featured. A band on Factory, released just one album in 1984 – the very interesting Alma Mater. Without question indebted to other groups on that label, and two in particular, one with the initials JD and the other with the initials NO (it certainly helps if your album producer is one P. Hook). On paper they would have been identikit Factory – mostly male vocals sounding older than their years (and they were young), urgent basslines and staccato guitars, but in practice… well, that’s another story entirely.

Allmusic makes a case that they were a missing link between A Certain Ratio and Happy Mondays. And compared to label mates like ACR or Section 25 I have always found them to be a more compelling listen. Now granted this was likely due to early exposure. I found the album second hand in Free Bird Records in early 1985 which wasn’t bad given it was released in September of the former year. I knew nothing about them, but they were on Factory and the calligraphy on the album sleeve was, and remains, fantastic. They had been around for a few years by that stage, had a single produced by Martin Hannett (natch!), released a track dissing Factory’s distributor ‘How Corrupt is Rough Trade?’, managed to keep going as a functioning outfit after the album for a few years and released the valedictory ‘Partyline’ single in 1987.

But what did they sound like? Well I’ve mentioned the vocals – deep, yep, but melodic. The basslines similar. They liked their strummed guitars, and plinky plonk keyboards (some sounds very familiar indeed to those of us who knew Casio’s) as well as a none-more-early 1980s use of trumpet which was quite un-New Order like – check out Terror and Where I Belong. Then again, they weren’t averse to slower, more melancholy, tracks like Decalogue which set a kids sampled voice against a descending keyboard line that would have neatly graced Closer or Movement. But I can’t help but feel that they were more expansive than their influences, with a willingness to mess around with stop start, speed up and slow down melodies (To Look At Her starts with a sample of marching feet and goes on from there building and building). There’s the female vocals too interleaved into the songs. The lyrics are oddly personal, whereas the titles are all quite martial – always wondered what that was about. But oddly there’s another quite different area of post-punk that bits of it remind me of – that being the Dunedin sound bands and New Zealand groups like the Clean. The latter’s garagey and keyboard driven songs are curiously reminiscent of SM, or vice versa. There’s a shambolic, sometimes out of tune, aspect to them both. A sense of enthusiasm overcoming musical limitations. Again, as with so much music these are examples of convergent evolutions. It’s not a precise mapping, but there’s just enough in there to see the commonalities, and of course all these groups and the SM’s were part of post-punk.

Entertainingly John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats has said this is the best album ever. High praise indeed, but there’s something about it that I can’t quite put my finger on. The melodies, the keyboard phrases, the basslines, have worked their way into my head. Over the years I’ll find myself humming them for no reason at all. If I were to pick an album of the early to mid-1980s that summed up post-punk and what would/could come after, I think maybe this is the one. 

Good piece below on them here…

Terror

Your Uniform

Decalogue

Life’s Two Faces

To Look At Her

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