Sleep Over Beethoven
Only in Novels
Golden Egg / Disposable Hunk / Pink and Blue Checkered Toe Nails
A breath of fresh flair
Bergen-trio raise the indie bar with their refreshingly experimental and elegantly composed bulldozer rock.
In 2007 Norwegian band Ungdomskulen released their debut album Cry-Baby to cheers from critics at home and abroad. Although difficult to define, their amalgamated music must have felt like a recipe for success to the Bergen three-piece, and rightly so - Bisexual is yet another winning injection of the trio's concoction of bulldozer rock.
Ungdomskulen's musical spine consists of Frode Kvige Flatland's thumping bass, Kristian Stockhaus' soft, deadpan vocals and deliciously wailing guitars, with drummer Øyvind Solheim as the rider whipping the ensemble forward with brutal force. The trio started playing together in 2000, and before landing on the name Ungdomskulen, they experimented as Standing Ovation and Goddamnit, which explains the musical tightness that saturates Bisexual. The Klaxons-esque drive that acts as the foundation for most of their tunes is a solid basis, but a samey one if left uninterrupted. But as the album title indicates, this trio is refreshingly eager to bring a bit of everything into the mix.
Prog influences, traceable in the whimsical melodies floating on top of the banging orchestra, and in Stockhaus' unpredictable yet sophisticated guitar-play throughout, are prevalent. Nods to the London indie scene a few years back, represented by bands such as Test Icicles and the aforementioned Klaxons, are also strongly present. But it doesn't stop there. Every so often Ungdomskulen throws in a few pinches of 1980's New York punk-funk, and an infatuation with heavy metal and doom seems to be lurking in the background, separating the band from their indie peers in a favourable way.
Bisexual is like a heavy steam engine cruising through landscapes at an astonishing speed, occasionally slowing down as it passes stations before brutally cranking up the speedometer again. Because in-between the pleasurable musical mayhem, the trio inserts delicate sequences of mellow guitars and tender vocals - the 47 second long The Observer sounds like a ballad Robert Wyatt could have penned. And after these moments of softness it's addictively liberating when the trio starts banging instead of stroking their instruments again. It's a clever juxtaposition and a bullet point on the list of reasons why Ungdomskulen is worth getting excited about.
In Norwegian, the name Ungdomskulen refers to the strange, yet exciting period between ages 13 and 16, the untarnished years of experimentation. Considering the trio's vigorous playing and unfazed genre-mixing, the name fits the music like a glove. On Only In Novels Stockhaus sings, "Modern life's a bore, everything's defined, polka-dotted, plastic wrapped". And listening to Bisexual it seems like Ungdomskulen has set out to turn the predictabilities of this world on their heads, if only for as long as the approximately 42 minutes the album lasts.
Bisexual is a daring release, and although Ungdomskulen might have an adolescent approach to music, the way they toss the musical ingredients around is intellectual, cunning and fresh. It's raw, charming, soft, skilled and DIY all at once, making Bisexual something of a Norwegian gem - an album that keeps flourishing with each listen.