Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Gobshout review: Mixtaps and Cellmates - Rox

Swedish music is a phrase that will probably make you think one of two things – The Hives or Death Metal. Outside of these two, Swedish bands haven’t had much success in the UK recently (No, recently does NOT include ABBA) but Mixtapes & Cellmates will no doubt be aiming to change this with the release of their new album Rox

If you’re unfamiliar with Mixtapes & Cellmates, this isn’t their first album. Their debut album was a mostly electronic affair that received favourable reviews, but ‘internal problems’ led to the band going ‘on hiatus’ Now they’re back with a new sound which has definitely switched to the direction of ‘indie-pop’ So, has this been a good move? Well... yes and no.

'Never', is a great album opener. The Johan Fagerberg’s synths, combined with the scratching guitars form an impressive instrumental arrangement; the somewhat brooding vocals of Robert Svennson and the feeling of longing appear to set the tone of the rest of this ten track offering.

'Soft Eyes' is another keyboard heavy track, with the only major difference to the opener being that bassist Matilda Berggren performs the lead vocal duties. Svennson and Berggren continue to switch the role of singer between them throughout the whole of 'Rox' and this certainly adds an element of variety to album – this can only be a positive thing because things start to sound very samey as early as 'Soon', the third track of the album.

Thankfully, the 1980’s rock and roll style guitar riffs of 'Rain Letters' does something to break this pattern, even if the themes of longing and romance are still concurrent. Things decelerate with 'Sunday', one of the slower tempo tracks on the album which, despite the combined male and female vocals, doesn’t leave a lasting impression. Unfortunately, most of the second half of Rox is almost as unmemorable.

Lies gets off to an excellent start with an almost industrial electro sound, and yes the bassline throughout this track is excellent but the guitars, vocals and themes are just more of the same. It’s somewhat underwhelming, as is 'All the lights' which at six minutes is too long. Yes, it’s something different with minimal instruments supporting Svennson’s vocals but it just isn’t interesting. This track will probably be the most skipped of the album.

'Lesser half of cynical boys' thankfully drives some much needed life into proceedings with one of the highest tempo, bouncy tracks. The jinking guitars are a real treat and Mixtapes & Cellmates even show that they slow the tempo right down in a decent way when they want to, as demonstrated during the half way stage of this almost four minute long track.

At least 'Any Eye' keeps the fast temp going but once again it just sounds very familiar to the early tracks of the album. The same goes for the final song 'All of the above' which ironically describes the entire album in that this is once again similar to many of the offerings before it.

'Rox' isn’t a bad album, but it isn’t very creative. Yes, each band has their own distinct sounds but there is a difference between that and almost every track sounding the same. Of course, there are a couple of tracks that do sound different to the rest of the album but these alone aren’t enough to secure some well needed variety. Mixtapes & Cellmates might be good at what they do and there are some nice arrangements throughout the album but repetition doesn’t do them any favours. Therefore it seems unlikely that Rox will provide the Swedish five piece with much commercial success this side of the North Sea.


(Originally written for Gobshout)

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