David & the Citizens
Until the Sadness Is Gone
avid & the Citizens are from Sweden, mix their vocals high, and write few songs over four minutes. Nevertheless, sophomore record Until the Sadness Is Gone, originally released in 2003 but arrived on American shores just last year, is not a pop album, not even given the sunny bop and simple horn section it shares with what has quickly become a Scandinavian archetype. No, this is indie-rock, with all the spindly guitars and plaintive vocals that implies—and it's good indie-rock, with all the brevity and soulful wit that does. What keeps it from being great indie-rock is not a lack of energy, deftness, or ability, but of guidance; in parts it veers too close to the demanding formulas of pop without dropping its own ingratiating sloppiness, and by refusing to stoop to the preciousness usually employed as a net in such circumstances it becomes leaden.
But David Fridlund and company stray into such reverse alchemy only rarely, and much of Until the Sadness Is Gone is light, clever, and golden. "The End" buoys a libretto in danger of becoming puling with a quick, acidic shuffle and a well-placed flash of self-awareness: "Luxury problems / Still, it's more than I can take." "Sore Feet + Blisters," with its gentle progression from acoustic lament to bouncy, rangy acoustic lament, provides the centerpiece to which the bombast of the less successful "On All American Winds" aspires.
The band's best three minutes come with their appropriation, third- or fourth-hand, of the somehow still-shiny drumbeat from the Ronettes' "Be My Baby." It supports "New Direction" through the verses necessary to earn the chorus, which starts serviceable—"Did I ever take my eyes off the horizon?"—and ends terrific—"Did I ever take my mind off something dirty?" preceding a dozen earnest demands to "point me out a new direction!" Fridlund has a keener sense than is obvious of which words to support with which carefully recycled melodies. Take the opening lines of "Long Days," set to a curling, insistent piano: "There are two ways of doing this / One is easy and one is complicated / And it's up to me to pick one now / And I don't think I'll pick the easy one."
Subtly precise, but hardly a mission statement. Until the Sadness Is Gone rarely picks the complicated way of doing anything: Fridlund's vocals are cheerfully strained on sing-alongs like "Graycoated Morning" and yelpy on the string-buffeted climax of "On All American Winds," as indie as dammit, and the elegiac horns licking the gentler moments of the hyperactive title track grant it the underlying sadness it needs and you expect. This is an album of nothing but ease, its high points pure captured breeze, and its missteps—the overpopped "Silverjacketgirl," dull crescendo "As You Fall (I Watch With Love)"—nothing but attempts to dress the breeze with pop, portent, and a pair of cracked cheeks.