The Plastic Pals "Good Karma Café" (Polythene Records, 2008)
Arresting full-length début.
Defining a band as "power-pop" always seems to be damning it with faint praise, for now matter how sophisticated its manifestation, there is something inescapably lightweight about the appellation. The Plastic Pals are a case in point, for despite the fact that they even refer to themselves as power-pop, they are far more interesting than that term would suggest, blending psychedelia, alt-country, garage rock, and post punk into their robust sound. There are especially hints of the Paisley Underground and it is thus entirely natural that erstwhile Green On Red keyboardist Chris Cacavas guests on a couple of tracks.
Yet whilst the Plastic Pals wear their influences on their sleeve, they successfully shape them into their own image and although there might not be a great deal of originality on display here, they are never unimaginatively derivative. Opener Here Comes the Sun is a perfect example of their ability to produce vibrant and visceral songs which tap straight into rock's collective unconscious. With the exception of the alt-country leanings of the title track and the more overtly post-punk Suicide Bomber, many of the songs conform to this same pattern and whilst it might grow a little predictable over the course of the album, it is impossible to dispute their facility for the template.
Throughout, Häkan Soold proves that he is a forceful, distinctive vocalist and despite the Swedish origins of the band, there are none of the problems with diction which so often plague those singing in a second language. Mention must also be made of the guitar work of Soold and Anders Sahlin. The latter's leads on songs such as The Best Kept Secret or Long and Lonely are a glorious combination of wiry and melodic, often recalling the work of Chuck Prophet. The fact that guitar solos are such a prominent feature of the band's sound is a testament to their rock classicism and when they engage with that tradition so successfully, it is difficult to complain.
Date review added: Monday, January 19, 2009
Reviewer: Kai Roberts
Related web link: Artist's Myspace