Monday, October 10, 2005

I wonder if these guys know Abba...

does swedish sometimes sound like japanese? or is that just me? i think its the way they elongate their vowel sounds. many think that japanese is a rough language, along the lines of chinese, but sometimes i think that impression comes more from people who live all their lives in an environment so dependent on time and efficiency that they cannot, amidst all their other luxuries, afford lazy day conversation. japanese, spoken by monks who have stripped themselves of worldly worries, use a sonorous, lilting form of the language, melodic in its delivery.
i've never studied sweden (i did, however, spend three horrific years taking japanese) but i'm going to assume they're a bit more laid back than the japanese, or they'd be more than the country that gave us abba.
abba fooled us all though, if only for a minute, by singing in only two of them fit the image of swedes as blonde locked, blue eyed valkryies and vikings...the other two looked like my neighbors jim and nancy. and their american english was impeccable, effortlessly aping our accents and idioms (check out the rising "ooh yeah" at the end of the chorus of "dancing queen," how they almost close that note only to come back up again, like they were channeling the spirit of ronnie spector at the end of the chorus of "be my baby.")
but the whole thing, ultimately, seemed fake: a gross interpretation of american popular music, lacking the honesty and emotion that defines the best american music all the way from billie holliday to the notorious b.i.g. so, perhaps due to abba's insistence on being something they weren't, i don't think i've ever heard spoken swedish, save for the swedish chef, but i think its possible he suffered from a mental disorder so you can't really accept him as an example.
so on saturday night, in strode dungen to the empty bottle. very obvioiusly swedish: this time there was no jim and nancy to fool me, these guys are all skinny rock and roll vikings; long blonde hair thrashing in the red glow of the stage lights. when gustav ejstes opens his mouth though, you'd be hard pressed to identify it as swedish, stretching vowels and holding consonants in the back of his throat as he bounced across the stage for an hour and twenty minutes. then, between songs, he'd serve platitudes to his u.s. fans in a broken english eerily similar to that of balki bartokomous.
occassionally, as the lead guitarist and rhythm section played off each other furiously, he'd put down his tambourine and grab his flute, or pound on the keys. familiar songs turned into extended jams, a strange brew of pink floyd and the grateful dead as the songs built through the band's interplay, becoming something ethereal; there but not there like fog, until the original song came rushing back like some shrouded memory.
dungen rocks, in the tradition of all great rock and roll, because it makes you feel, even in a language so incomprehensible to me that it sounded like something from a country 5000 miles away whose only similarity to sweden is a common love for seafood. ultimately, dungen do what abba never could by understanding that the one language that's truly universal (unlike swedish, japanese, or english) is music.


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