Division of Laura Lee's Swedish Fire
Thurs Oct 17, Chop Suey, $10 adv/$12 DOS.
"Sometimes it feels like bands are so fucking nice," says singer-guitarist Per Stalberg. "I'm a nice guy, but we don't live in a nice world, and it all feels so fake sometimes. I think rock music should be more dangerous--it should tell the truth."
Yeah, the truth can be hard to swallow, but Division of Laura Lee's edgy elixir is exactly what rock music fans so desperately crave. Been feeling as if the over-trumpeted "rock revivalist" bands are nearly as contrived as the pop princesses and boy bands they've dislodged from MTV and magazine covers? Well, so do DOLL, and they've gone and done something about it.
Black City, the Swedish quartet's second album, exudes authenticity through an exhilarating combination of growling guitars, swaggering rhythms, and soulful, highly personal lyrics. A punk band at heart, the foursome's songs often explode in angular chaos and reckless fury. But they're perhaps at their most intense when they smolder claustrophobically, exploring the dark territories inhabited by Primal Scream and, recently, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Occasionally brooding, frequently rash, and always engaging, DOLL are, ironically, the antidote to the more predictable garage-rock scene in which they've carelessly been lumped (most recently in a piece on Swedish rock by the New York Times).
"We didn't buy our attitudes, we didn't buy suits, ya know what I mean?" laughs Stalberg, in a not-so-subtle jab at their Swedish labelmates the Hives. "They're a good band, but we're a lot different. We don't try to be retro or anything. We don't look back and try to do what others did. Of course we love old music, but we're a band for the future. And it's very important for us to be honest and direct and speak from the heart."
If, say, Celine Dion were to utter the line, "I used to cry myself to sleep for 10 years," you'd surely gag, but when Stalberg does it in the poignant, swirly "I Guess I'm Healed," you can actually sense he's been through some serious shit. And that's before you find out about his rough adolescence, about his dad dying from cancer when he was 14, about his brother committing suicide, about the trials of growing up in a gritty factory town.
"All of us had pretty fucked-up childhoods and we've been through some really hard stuff," he says. "And this album tackled a lot of those things that we really hadn't talked about with anyone before. It was a good feeling to get everything out from inside, and I think that's the reason why it turned out so good."
Bearing their souls may have been a new thing for Stalberg and his bandmates--bassist Jonas Gustafsson, drummer Hakan Johansson, and guitarist David Ojala--but they've all been kicking around the Swedish music scene for a long time. Previous to the group's formation in 1997, each member enjoyed stints in numerous punk outfits in and around Gothenburg, Sweden. Brought together by their common outsider status, DOLL spent their early years shaping an uncompromising vision inspired by a love of both D.C. hardcore and noisy British mood merchants.
"We started the band because of Fugazi, who really did what they wanted to do," says Stalberg. "I love everything on Dischord. I'm the professor of shoegazing too--Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine, all that stuff. Soul music is another big reason we started the band. We're into everything. But Minor Threat is my favorite band of all time since I was a kid."
Like his teen idols, Stalberg says DOLL built a following through nearly incessant European touring, word of mouth, and a string of self-released singles and EPs. And when it came time to sign with Sweden's influential Burning Heart label in 2001 and ramp up the band's inter-national profile, they were careful to guard their hard-earned respect and credibility.
"Like a lot of bands from the punk scene, we feel like it's us against the world, but we have control of our music and we know what we want and how to get it. We're good at dealing with all the shit involved in being a band that doesn't include playing music--we toured for three years without a manager or booking agency or any of that. But now it's good: We can relax while people are setting up our stuff on the stage. We like that!"
Cherished roadies in tow, Division of Laura Lee are coming to the U.S. for the first time, and Stalberg confidently predicts American fans will be awed by the raw power and, yes, danger of the live show.
"Usually it's like a bomb detonating--you never know what's gonna happen. Sometimes it's totally insane. But we are definitely one of the best live bands in the world. So it's always good--that I can promise!"