“The future of rock,” Kurt Cobain once declared, “belongs to women.” Voice of a generation he may well have been, but when it came to crystal balls he couldn’t work the buggers for toffee. Truth is, despite the efforts of Karen, Brody et al, rock in 2004 is still trapped in a dullard cycle of faux-machismo, bluster and hideously unattractive young men scoring blowjobs on the grounds that they can play E, D and A minor. That’s why we need a band like Stockholm’s girl-fronted [a]The Concretes[/a]. They’re here, armed with a mini-orchestra of Stockholm’s finest musos, to save us from the stench of Nic Cester’s beer-vomit. And they do so, not with brashness of strum or absence of wash, but with those rarely-uttered descriptives: ‘fragility’ and ‘grace’.
As far removed from any clichéd definition of ‘rock’ as you can get, the band’s greatness lies in twisting the subtleties (rather than the noise dials) of classic ’60s girl-pop groups such as The Supremes, The Shangri-Las and The Ronettes. But this isn’t wistful indie-pop revelling in its own tweeness – [a]The Concretes[/a] are well acquainted with rock’n’roll’s dark past (Lisa Milberg’s opiated drum-thud on ‘Say Something New’ echoes the Velvets) as well as its starry-eyed innocence (‘Chico’ is currently without competitors in the Best Song About A Talking Cat category at next year’s NME Awards).
So while it’s probably the gloriously upbeat headrush-pop that’ll pull you in (‘You Can’t Hurry Love’, ‘Seems Fine’), elsewhere lies something altogether more sumptuous. The masterpiece arrives in the form of ‘Warm Night’ – essentially Strauss’ ‘Blue Danube’ (the one from 2001: A Space Odyssey – Classical Ed) swooning itself around strings, organs and a choral fade-out. Sounds bombastic, we know, but it’s beautifully restrained and the most romantic pop song you’ll hear this year.
So, true, Kurt probably never envisaged this bunch of Swedish femme-popsters when he gazed towards the future. But he should have done, because [a]The Concretes[/a]’ debut is an understated classic: a triumph of delicacy over decibels. Tim Jonze
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