Album Review: The Sounds – Crossing The Rubicon

by Tony Butterworth on July 31, 2009

This horse is trying to get your attention

This horse is trying to get your attention

What do you get if you take a sampling of the Scandinavian delights of Abba and the rock-based Backyard Babies or Hellacopters ?  Add in some Max Martin style production and maybe even some A-Ha and you have The Sounds new album, Crossing The Rubicon.

The Sounds were formed in Sweden in 1999. Crossing The Rubicon is their 3rd album and features a confusing blend of female vocal driven rock, pop and even dance.  My only previous exposure to them was the very poppy “Tony The Beat” found on the soundtrack to the movie Music and Lyrics.  I discovered this album after seeing and hearing the lead single,  “No One Sleeps When I’m Awake,” on MTV2’s indie focused Subterranean show.

Crossing The Rubicon is a very difficult album to categorize: it veers from dance-style pop all the way to some solid indie rock and at times seems a little confused in its identity.

The album opens with the fantastic, aforementioned, “No One Sleeps When I’m Awake,” driven by one of those simple hooks we’d all would love to replicate.  Super rock vocals and the power chorus we can all sing along to.  This song really makes you to believe this is a true Swedish rock band ready to take over the world.  “4 Songs and A Fight” is more of the same, though a forewarning of the dance feel to come does start to appear here.

Next is “My Lover,” featuring a pure 80s synth pop intro, I didn’t know what to expect, this was even followed by the electronic drums we all loved to hate back then.  This is something different” this sounds much more like dance based, pop based, Roxette in their heyday; or dare I say it, Abba.  This is followed by “Dorchester Hotel,” a tune that’s hard to summarize: more guitars, more synths and some slightly strange lyrics.  It’s entertaining on the first couple of listens, but one I might start to skip as time goes on.  But again, it has such a rousing chorus, it’s hard to ignore.

Now things take a side road.  “Beatbox” is an odd one: late 80s style rap, references to the previously mentioned “Tony The Beat,” 70s disco strings in the chorus–what is this ?  I don’t know.  I’m not sure if I like it or not.  “Underground” follows.  This is one of the weaker songs for me, again falling somewhere between 80’s dance and indie rock but this time missing the mark by a small touch.

The song “Crossing The Rubicon” has a different sound, not representing the style of the rest of the album, featuring male vocals and almost a chant-like approach.  At 2 minutes it’s short, and I have to admit I am always glad when it’s over.

Now time for the gem, “Midnight Sun,” this is a song I have listened to over and over again, it’s one of those that simply hits the spot for me.  Synths, guitars, laid back verses, and the kind of power chorus to give you goosebumps.  If you want to listen to one song from this album, this is the one.  After the album peaks here, it’s a gradual slope down to the enjoyable “Lost In Love,” a rousing chorus featuring some fun backing vocals keeps this one on the positive side.  Take a listen at that the 3:30 point, I’d swear that’s a direct sample of copy of the keyboards from A-Ha’s “Take on Me.”

The last quarter of the album is led off by “The Only Ones,” basically a power pop ballad, raised a notch by the attitude in the vocals (and the accent).  This wouldn’t be out of place on the latest Kelly Clarkson record.  Then it’s on to “Home Is Where Your Heart Is,” another synth driven power pop tune, perhaps my third favorite on the album (after “Midnight Sun” and “No One Sleeps When I’m Awake.”)

Then we finish with “Goodnight Freddy,” a 4-minute instrumental that simply goes nowhere; what a strange way to end.

The Sounds’ flaw, if this is a flaw, is that their songs all follow a formula.  Musical hook on the intro, stripped back verse, power choruses.  Nothing wrong with that but it can start to sound the same after a while and, in my random play iPod world, it’s always fun to have a song from Crossing the Rubicon pop up, but my wish to listen to the album is already decreasing.  As is often the case with me, this one is getting a lot of plays right now but I suspect, other than the best two songs, it will fade into the background soon enough.

Take a look at “No One Sleeps When I’m Awake.”

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Tony also podcasts about songwriting at www.homemadehitshow.com

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Gordon Elgart July 31, 2009 at 2:29 pm

Personally, I love “Tony the Beat.” I still include it on most of my mix CDs. I know what you mean about the new album, though. It does have a way of all sounding pretty similar.

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