Swedish synth-pop band goes by the books
If only songs were judged by how well the musicians played it safe. Things We Do For Love is a mostly smooth ride, which one could at least figure is better than a bumpy one, but then again, driving half the speed limit isn’t anyone’s idea of a thrill. One can only wonder what songs like “Dreaming of You” and “Changes” sounded like before they hit the editing room; by now, they’ve been polished and preened with the kind of steady hand people would need to make a watch from scratch. The album’s cover features a bundle of dynamite, presumably because the music is so reckless and cool. In reality, the contrary is true, and The Sounds are like the people who diffuse the bomb before anyone knew it was lit.
Despite suffering from grating synthesizers, the title track chugs along with gusto, and a scoop of trepidation to match it. The guitars and drums are precisely in time, displaying the internal chemistry that has brought the Swedish synth-pop band as far as their sixth album. What isn’t as charming is the not-so-trailblazing songwriting. It’s unfortunate that the lyrics are as vanilla as they are, and even more unfortunate that the talented lead singer Maja Ivarsson got stuck with uttering them: “It’s like a thousand pounds of dynamite/ Exploded in my heart tonight.” The words are an unintentional summary of the record itself; The Sounds are content with staying in one creative lane and collecting all-too-easy comparisons with Blondie and the Strokes.
There is no doubting, however, that Ivarsson is on point, deftly navigating the upper register of her voice to produce some appealing, albeit cheesy, hooks. She leaves the rest of the band in the dust on “Hollow,” an otherwise shrug-worthy trudge through overwrought production. Snarling and howling her way through the track, Ivarsson belts out the refrain (“‘Cause I will leave you all hollow”) with enough power to earn Things We Do For Love one of its memorable moments. A solo album from a certain somebody is duly awaited.
Until then, people are left with this one, a low-risk and okay-reward affair. The band’s motives here aren’t that much different than those behind their 2002 debut, Living in America, which was heavy on escapist attitudes like the one here in “Bonnie and Clyde.” The Sounds have as much fun with that song as they can given the stakes, or lack thereof; bouncing between a ginger skip and a rousing chorus, the band takes the fresh perspective of young adults eager to try the world out: “The two of us so wild at heart/Looking for a brand new start.” It isn’t exactly the group’s motto, but then again, they’ve promised us “Sounds,” not revelations.