t’s 1969 again. A time tunnel has opened, and it led us straight from the muggy postindustrial spring to the summer of love. But don’t worry—we definitely could’ve chosen a worse year to repeat. Indeed some music fans might be damn happy if this time tunnel was an infinite loop; maybe when the ball drops in Times Square on New Year’s Eve, the year won’t change. Most will trudge home puzzled, but the tie-dyed few will snicker and dream of their third Woodstock.
By this point, you may be wondering if I took some of the brown acid. Everything seems normal, right? The newfangled Internet hasn’t dwindled to a twinkle in the most farsighted sci-fi writer’s eye. The globalized world still pulses with the problems that plagued it yesterday. And the rock icons of yesteryear are safely dead and buried. So what gives? Well, wait until you grab a copy of the self-titled debut from Stockholm’s the Works. Like labelmate Dungen, these boys channel the sounds and spirits of that bygone era. Indeed, they replicate the heyday of psychedelic rock so faithfully that their record sounds like a forgotten ’60s milestone.
And if this debut had been released back in ’69, The Works would rank high in the rock pantheon. But I’ve heard Pink Floyd, the Who, and Jefferson Airplane before, so I’m not sure if I need to hear them again. But just when I think I’m getting tired of the Works time-travel act, they remind me why I liked those bands in the first place. High-wire guitar acrobatics, soaring vocals, explosive drumming, trippy FX pedal interludes—that’s all here in abundance. And it’s all done well.
Damn well, in fact. Drummer Johan Holmegard sprawls over the kit, producing a clatter that straddles the border between discipline and total abandon. Andreas Stellan croons urgently over the guitar squalls, hitting the harmonies with Holmegard and straining his vocals to the point of breaking at the climaxes. Luckily he doesn’t strain his limited English vocabulary. The lyrics on The Works are purposefully vague. Don’t expect metaphoric richness or keen social observation. In fact, don’t really focus on the lyrics. Instead note the Stellan’s rich, ragged voice and move on.
You won’t need to appreciate the lyrics to fall in love with the Works. Trip on the bouncy piano of “Everybody,” get high to the distorted command of “There’s still time to get high” from “Speak Your Mind,” and revel in the sky-high organ and tense, rapid-fire drumming of “The Tale.”
The Works sound right at home in the psychedelic ’60s, so I can’t blame them for staying there. But it would be nice to hear them do more than write the songs the Who didn’t have time to write. Nothing on the album offends the ear, but since none of the songs top the best work of the psych-rock legends, I don’t know if The Works will pass the test of time.
Reviewed by: Bryan Berge
Reviewed on: 2005-05-12