Sunday, 9 December 2007

The Boy Who Couldn’t Stop Dreaming – Club 8 (Fortuna Pop!)

Club 8 are Johan (also to be found in The Legends and spanglingly mighty indie-pop maestros the Acid House Kings with whom Club 8 share a glittering acheyness to their at-first-glance perky popsongs) and the sweet-voiced Karolina. This is their sixth album. I’ve dipped into the band on occasion before, thanks to those wonderful curators of all things Swedey pop, Labrador records, and its nice to see them getting some UK action via Fortuna Pop! records.

On first listen, Club 8 make gentle, comforting music; the caress of Karolina’s breathy vocals, pattering beats, swirls of syrupy keyboards. It’s covered in a light dusting of icing sugar, powder perfect, sweet, slightly twinkling. Imagine a sparkling, Scandi Saint Etienne. But actually Club 8 are quite bleak, with a staring-into-space detachment to their sound. Maybe that’s not icing sugar dusting the songs, but frost. There’s a deliciously glum cast to even the ostensibly upbeat songs here, hinting at a heaviness of heart. Take recent download smash hits ‘Whatever You Want’ and ‘Heaven’*. The former canters along cheerily, with a seemingly carefree, handbag-swinging breeziness, kicking its heels to, ooh, get this, sampled Tropicalia percussion. ‘Heaven’ meanwhile, skips about with thrumming bass and bossa beats before launching into a soarily jubilant little chorus. But there’s a guardedness to the vocals; listen to what they’re saying – grieving over a long-lost youth and the inevitable encroachment of death. Reading the album’s lyrics is discomforting:

"I feel tired tonight / keep me out of sight".
"where birds don’t fly / that’s where I’m going to be"
Club 8’s last words here, as the glowing synth sound fades, are "All you wanted to say was goodbye. / Goodbye".

On the band’s web site, this record is described (rather cutely) as ‘Twelve songs that’ll make you sing along to songs about death while dreaming of summer days’. Maybe it’s because I’m listening to this in December, but ‘The Boy Who Couldn’t Stop Dreaming’ doesn’t immediately strike me as a summer record. If this is sunshine pop, then it’s for a summer experienced through a dislocating haze of anti-depressants. ‘Sometimes’ skates and tumbles on skittering beats and leafy synths, tripping deliciously on minor chords. The brooding, rumbly ‘Leave The North’ is suggestive of dark clouds racing across stormy skies, splashes of sunlight breaking through.

‘The Boy Who Couldn’t Stop Dreaming’ is an album that sounds like warm breath steaming up frosty windows, fairy lights reflected in faraway eyes, and smiles going distant and dreamy whilst ice cubes melt into vanilla vodka. I tried listening to it on the tube to work and it didn’t sound right, it needs to be listened to in the evening, used as an aural duvet when the dark is drawing in and the lamps are lit. Melancholic medicine with a bittersweet after-taste

* Available from December 10th as free downloads at

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