had never heard of Hemstad before I received this album in the mail. Is that a surprise? Probably not; they’ve got as much press as Hoboken. (Who? Exactly.) The extent of my Hemstad knowledge follows: a) their label described them as “instru-MENTAL” and b) their cover art was cacophonous but colorful. Given the light-hearted disharmony of the cover and Catbird’s description, I expected this Swedish octet to resemble a more fun version of Boris.
Remember way back in 2004? There was a band calling themselves The Go! Team, who released an album more fun than pretty much anything ever. Their music was often instrumental, and reminiscent of old school cartoons and Sly and the Family Stone.
Hemstad sounds a little bit like that. But while they are (completely) instrumental—“doo doo doo” doesn’t count—and have the same upbeat quality as The Go! Team, they aren’t simply trying to cash in on The Go! Team’s recent success. Instead of funk, they like Swede-pop. And if there was something less marketable than a band playing instrumental funk these days…
Anyway: it’s, you know, catchy hooks, “big” sound, twee melodies, and no lyrics. While this may sound tiresome, it doesn’t prove to be—each hook is excellent and the energy level rarely lets up. Oldsters need not worry: Hemstad is only eight songs and twenty-three minutes long and the boys even put a slow song in the middle, “Som En B-sida Om Sommaren,” which sounds like a lost Yoshimi B-side.
Despite the fact that Hemstad is cohesive to a fault, the group manages to have a few tracks that stand out: “Patrik Sjöberg” is carried by a surf guitar and synths that “sound like Captain Skyhawk,” as my girlfriend put it, and changes tempos early and often—it’s like “Blueberry Boat,” except Swedish and only four minutes long. “Fyllekärring” is similarly excellent, starting with a catchy guitar hook, only to get destroyed by the “chorus” (i.e. a barrage of noise that stands between every hook-filled “verse.”)
But, really, my description doesn’t do any of these songs justice. Maybe that’s why Hemstad has no lyrics—they couldn’t convey the energy that the songs exude with words either.
Reviewed by: Matt Collins
Reviewed on: 2006-11-15