February 09, 2004

The Wannadies "Before & After"

Sweden's The Wannadies have made a terrific little record. Though Before & After came out way back in 2002, it's just now making its domestic appearance now, but that's okay, it was worth the wait, because it's taken a little while for the American Indie Rock Listener to open up and appreciate the nuances of Swedish rock. For Before & After, The Wannadies have tapped into the two dominant aspects of Swedish music: soft, smooth electropop and crunchy garage-rock.

To make their new record more interesting, they initially planned for it to be a double album; one album was to have been "Before," which would consist of upbeat, rocking numbers, to capture the mood of a party on Saturday night. The second album, "After," was to have been a mellower, more romantic record, consisting of soft, soothing and arousing pop, for life after the party, when it's just you and your beloved. Though it didn't quite work out that way, it's an interesting concept, to say the least, and they kept the 'before' and 'after' division.

"Before" kicks off with "Little By Little," a nice stab of new-wave laced indie-pop. I'm really fond of the combo of synths and rock and boy/girl vocals. It sounds really good, and it sets the tone for the other five songs in the "Before" section. Though occasionally Pixies comparisons could be made---most notably on "Skin," with its "Velouria"-esque guitar riffs and Kim Deal-like oohs and aahs--The Wannadies have struck upon a sound that's really, truly their own. I like the down and dirty good-time aspect of "Before," and songs like "Uri Geller" and "All Over Me" are really good pop-rock.

"After," though, is the exact opposite of "Before," and if you didn't know any better, you could easily be forgiven for not knowing that this was the same band. The funtime's over, now it's time for lovin', and they've provided a nice, albeit terribly brief, soundtrack for, um, twenty minutes of woo. Though it stands in direct contrast with "Before," and though it may be a bit of a drag after the first six songs, "After" is a rather nice change of pace. Sounding not unlike the Cardigans, songs like "Can't Stop You" and "Come With Me (Til Things Get Better)" remind me of an indie-pop take on Marvin Gaye's classic post-dance album, I Want You. But the Wannadies are not Marvin Gaye, but their lush pop is still pretty good.

Does the split concept work? Well, yes and no. Yes, in the sense that it highlights the Wannadies' talents for songwriting, but no in the sense that Before & After promises a greatness that's never fully delivered. After hearing "Before," I want to hear more songs like "Before," and the same goes for "After." Though there's only a limited taste of their true talents to be found here, it's still a nice highlight, even if it doesn't touch the surface of what they can do. If anything, it makes you want to hear more Wannadies, and considering Before & After has arrived so late in the game, here's hoping that their follow-up album comes quickly, because if this album has done anything, it's shown that their follow-up album--which could go two ways--is something to look forward to.

(As this is a reissue, there are several bonus features, mainly several videos and extra content, which, thanks to my old computer, I can't check out. Bet it's good, though!)

--Joseph Kyle

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