"I suspect that being a beefheartian blues guitarist in Sweden
ain't easy (and I doubt it would be easier somewhere else)." So started
my intro to my 2004 interview with Jimmy Ågren, a few weeks after the release
of Close Enough For Jazz, Ågren's third solo album after Get This Into
Your Head and Glass Finger Ghost. At the time, Ågren surprised me quite
a bit when he told me that the material for his next CD was, at least in
part, ready. And that he hoped to release the new album - planned title: Various Phobia - at the end of 2005.
I had liked Close Enough For Jazz, an album where the young Ågren (his
older brother being drummer Morgan), performing so well on drums, bass
and harp, went on playing with a healthy dose of humility some nice music
that was, without a doubt, a commercial dead end. It was at the end of my review that I wrote that - no offence
to those "blues-beefheartian" coordinates, of course - I hoped that those "folkish
arias" I detected in the instrumental tracks titled Who's Lennard
and Fifty Thousand Notes could have more space in the future.
things didn't go that way. First, obviously, when it comes to the release date
of Various Phobias, and album that Ågren made all by himself when it comes to both the instrumental
(but in my opinion it's practically impossible to "get"
that it's only one person playing everything) and the technical side. Then,
when it comes to the music: which didn't sail towards the "rock folk arias" that
I hoped to listen to, but which appears to have abandoned more than a bit
those by now familiar climates (and the harp!, the instrument being absent
here) which could have easily become mannerisms.
It's not that those who are already familiar with Ågren's
past work won't know what they're listening to, especially when it comes
to the album's opening track - it could have been on any of his past
albums - and track 7 (which I imagine as being the opening track of Side
Two), an instrumental that wouldn't have been out of place on Mallard's
first album (of the same name). But here on this album Ågren appears to have changed his concept of groove, which
was once fractured (ā la Drumbo) but is now quite more linear (ā la Terry
Bozzio or, once in a while, Simon Phillips). While in parallel those
angular repeated riffs take turns with vivacious solos which reminded
me quite a bit of Jeff Beck: both in his
"British Blues" period, and his modern
We have a classic opener, Smokin' France, with some funny lyrics and a mood
that I can only define as being very Zappa-like.
But it's with the following track, Little Devil (a Gibson SG?), that new things
start appearing: a dry, frantic rhythm (the Yardbirds?), a slide very much
in the style of Jeff Beck, and a burning guitar solo backed by very strong
The long Light Show Bob has some
"beefheartian"sections alternating with moments where guitars are quite
layered, and some "lighter" moments. Quite curiously, the rhythm at the end reminded me of Zappa's San Ber'dino - with a "Bulgarian" Jeff Beck playing a solo with the bar.
We have a nice, "lazy" groove in Blow Me Hard, a track that (and I couldn't really say why) reminded me of the
"raw" Kinks, circa Muswell Hillbillies.
With a groove that sits halfway between Drumbo and Terry Bozzio, and a "boogie" guitar
solo, Jeff's House is nice; a groove č la Simon Phillips gives life to
Goodnight Austin Texas, with an excellent performance on electric bass.
554023 is the "Mallard" track I referred to earlier: it starts with
a "circular" arpeggio on acoustic guitars with harmonics, a melody
played slide, and a nice effect (simulated, I think) of "backwards
Waitin' is a boogie with a nice solo, Various Phobias has some excellent drum
Durham Takeoff is a very good instrumental track where the guitar solo mixes
the blues with strange "Swedish" melodies, played slide. Once more,
Not much I can say about They Don't Care, the album (as long as an old vinyl
LP: a wise move) comes to its close with Mud Driller: an arpeggio with
harmonics played on an electric guitar, a nice melody sounding like an old "folk" tune,
an excellent rhythm section, a beautiful slide guitar solo, a "symmetric" ending.
In closing, I can only lament the fact that all those tiny venues where once
one could go and see a lot of groups of the "unorthodox"
kind (also in the Rock In Opposition "style") are no more.
Š Beppe Colli 2008
CloudsandClocks.net | Mar. 6, 2008