ometimes you wonder if they’re not writing this material as they go along. The music from the Envelopes’ first LP, Demon, is so loose and frivolous it feels like the Swedish group wasn’t even aware that the mics were hot. In a way, they weren’t. The tracks that make up Demon were culled from the band’s collection of past demos, and consequently there’s none of the “OK-down-to-business” surgical feel of a proper recording. The off-the-cuff aesthetic is evident from the outset with “It Is the Law.” The song (and album) opens with a single guitar noodling out a whimsical little melody, which explodes into a motley arrangement of guitars, Moog, and drums, transforming the cul-de-sac tune into a legit (if quirky) sing-a-long hook. Not that there’s much to sing along to: the lyrics consists completely of “It is the law…it is the law.” The fifth track, “I Don’t Even Know,” begins in a similar composing-on-the-fly manner. One member simply starts humming some strange tune half-assed over chords, and then a guitar pops its head in and runs off with it. About a minute in, Audrey Pic, the female vocalist, sings out a rising, contrapuntal line, and the guitar obediently mirrors it. They add some lyrics (“I don’t even know / I don’t even know if I know”), and wham!—the Envelopes have got themselves a song.
Demon is full of other such hit-or-miss lyrical ramblings ranging from the nauseatingly dumb, “Are you actually saying that we are not as cool as we think?! / Then you can take your lip gloss and stick it up your…throat,” from “Glue” to the silly genius of “Sister in Love” (“If I were you, I’d watch out for that guy over there / He is, he is, he is, he is, not that fat! / Is your sister in love?” Henrik Orrling, the male lead vocalist, has made it known that most of the Envelopes’ lyrics don’t have much meaning behind them, so the less you read into their words the better. The carelessly flung lines are just another facet of their devil-may-care Swedish pop. The cornerstone of Demon, “Sister in Love”, is irresistibly cute, with its bouncy chorus, swinging synths, and endearingly concerned lyrics (“How can you be so sure he loves you?”). Consider it an anthem for overprotective older siblings. They follow it with “Your Fight Is Over,” a tender reconciliation with meditative guitar, breathy boy/girl vocals, and sprinkling vibraphone. Pic makes a small mistake early on, carrying the chorus line, “Your fight is over, can’t you see?” one too many repetitions and stops abruptly in an attempt to hide it. In keeping with the rest of Demon, this error is left in, and the album is better for it.
Demon is full of larger imperfections, as well—namely the mostly lagging second half. Sugary musical confections always walk a fine line between guilty pleasure and queasy overload, and “Audrey in the Country” and “Massmouvement” taste more like Peeps than pop. Audrey Pic sings “Audrey in the Country” solo, and without another voice to counterbalance her frivolous and innocent delivery, the already-childlike lyrics (“There are cows and bees on my street!”) become tiresome. The sudden attempts at alt-country on both don’t help matters, and (especially with “Massmouvement”) it’s difficult to find anything worth listening to a second time. The Envelopes need to experiment, it’s true, but they also need Moogs and other tricks to add an edge to their unique hooks. Here’s hoping their next project (currently in progress) yields some slightly more polished nuggets, without sacrificing their unbridled sweetness and ruthless abandon.
Reviewed by: Jeff Shreve
Reviewed on: 2006-05-11