Michael Learns To Rock
Scandinavia


2.5
average

Review

by Irving Tan STAFF
September 7th, 2012 | 24 replies


Release Date: 2012 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Gently flying in from Asia.

From an outsider’s (read: non-Asian) point of view, the massive appeal behind Danish soft rockers Michael Learns to Rock (MLTR) may be quite difficult to comprehend. Indeed, a series of albums following a basic verse-chorus song format, performed by the most unexciting trio of men ever (clean-shaven, white shirts, neatly cropped hair – you get the idea) seems like quite the hard sell. Yet the figures themselves tell a different story: this is a band which has not only sold over ten million records in Asia alone, but has also played live in over 20 countries and territories on the continent – including those that have always been traditionally viewed as being musically inaccessible such as the likes of Nepal, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Bangladesh, China, Thailand, and Malaysia.

Yet the most remarkable thing about it all, perhaps, is the observation that even in a market that’s as notoriously content to chomp on the mainstream bit as mainland Asia, precious few acts have managed to get away with releasing records that are stylistically similar several times in a row (and for good reason). Even fewer still have succeeded at sustaining audience turn-outs comparable to that of previous years at their live shows, with Asian attendance numbers frequently displaying a trend of plummeting rapidly after the initial burst of popularity has died down. The fact that MLTR achieved both milestones as early as the mid-2000s – and are continuing to sustain them even now – allows for some interesting conclusions about the ability of a formulaic auditory essence to appeal en masse.

To that end, it’s tempting to conclude that part of MLTR’s success likely comes down to their insistence at doing exactly what it says on the tin. The band’s inherently passive (a more accurate, but much less kind word would be “uninventive”, but we’ll let that slide) nature is probably best summarized by lead singer Jascha Richter's memorable response during a 2008 interview, in where he was asked as to what constituted the elements of a good song: "You got to have a chorus and a verse,” was the answer, delivered in full-on dead-pan. To the critical ear, it’s all-out anathema, but for the extended audience it makes absolute empirical sense. The rudimentary song format, when incorporated alongside simply-worded lyrics, whilst being propelled along only by the barest of instrumental inflections and supplanted with a “clean” band image that defies any sort of geographical categorization whatsoever, could work wonders when applied to an audience that is typically familiar with the medium only as a second or even third language. In that respect all bets are automatically switched off, with the success of an album being solely contingent on the strength of the hooks themselves and how the new songs stand up to the band’s previous offerings.

Which leads me nicely into why MLTR’s latest offering – Scandinavia – comes off as a bit underwhelming. Although there’s no denying that Richter and co. still exudes traces of that same old Danish charm throughout all of Scandinavia’s 44 minute runtime, there’s also no shaking the sense that MLTR have simply produced a lot better in the past. Most telling, perhaps, is the fact that the strongest tracks on the record are the more upbeat numbers, which is completely out-of-character for a band that is best known for its vast repertoire of karaoke-worthy ballads. Although it is quite welcome to see songs like “Shanghaied In Tokyo” and “Renovate My Life” display a flashier, slightly more edgy side to the Danish three piece, having a palette of slower tracks like “Heaven Is My Alibi” or “Make My Life” which do not quite meet the standards of MLTR classics like “25 Minutes”, “How Many Hours”, or even “The Actor”, does make for a rather disappointing aftertaste overall.

While the pensive slow rock archetype that MLTR launched for themselves over a decade ago has yet to completely recede from their interactions with us, the overall importance of the vitality of their sound probably never really infiltrated us – until now. For although Scandinavia only rarely hints that it is prepared to reach MLTR’s previous levels of emotional and interpersonal engagement, when it does – like on the album-closing title track, for instance – the lines that Richter sings often end up taking on a whole new meaning altogether. “’Cause we belong in Scandinavia,” he chooses to croon on the album's closing track, as the record gradually spins to a halt. When he does that, I can’t help but feel that this time around, MLTR’s heart is simply someplace else, and ultimately, not with us.



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user ratings (1)
2.5
average

Comments:Add a Comment 
Irving
Staff Reviewer
September 7th 2012


7311 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Greetings Sputnik, from the Sultanate of Oman! It's been awhile! Hope everyone's doing well. Am a bit
out of practice in terms of writing/reviewing so kindly do forgive the rust, if any (I imagine that
there is quite a bit kicking around).

Anyway, if any of you are interested, here's "Renovate My Life": http://www.youtube.com/watch?
v=TU9Qi03tBIA

Cheers!



Omaha
Staff Reviewer
September 7th 2012


10284 Comments


"MLTR’s latest offering – Scandinavia – comes off as a bit of a underwhelming."

Miss a word here?

klap
Staff Reviewer
September 7th 2012


10498 Comments


who is irving tan zhi mian

Digging: Caribou - Our Love

truekebabpower
September 7th 2012


639 Comments


wow, this is so calm and underwhelming I want to punch the computer; come to think of it, it's pretty
similar to my psychology teacher

EDIT: come to think of it, it song you recommended reminds me of sunrise avenue more so than coldplay
or travis, not a good thing too

Irving
Staff Reviewer
September 7th 2012


7311 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Miss a word here?

Crap. I knew something like that could and would be on the cards lol. Thanks! XD

Irving
Staff Reviewer
September 7th 2012


7311 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

who is irving tan zhi mian

And whaaaiiii is he Staff? XD

Brostep
Staff Reviewer
September 7th 2012


3471 Comments


Good review, although I kind of feel like it would be better to devote more than 1 paragraph out of 5 to the album you're reviewing. The review flowed really nicely though and I'd give it a pos if I could

As for the music itself, a 2.5 rating plus a genre of music that sounds utterly unappealing to me (don't particularly care for slow/chilled out music, it's part of the reason that I never got into Beach House - although I may be completely wrong with that comparison) means I most likely won't be giving this a try.

MisterTornado
Contributing Reviewer
September 7th 2012


4507 Comments


band name sounds like episode of the office

menawati
Contributing Reviewer
September 7th 2012


16057 Comments


'Jascha Richter's memorable response during a 2008 interview, in where he was asked as to what constituted the elements of a good song: "You got to have a chorus and a verse,” was the answer, delivered in full-on dead-pan.'

hahaha

Digging: Lo-Pan - Colossus

Irving
Staff Reviewer
September 8th 2012


7311 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Good review, although I kind of feel like it would be better to devote more than 1 paragraph out of 5 to the album you're reviewing.

Actually it was a deliberate choice to not talk about the actual songs too much. Point noted on the distribution of weightage though, thanks. Hopefully I'll be able to return to full time writing soon, and the rust will not be too evident then.

Brostep
Staff Reviewer
September 8th 2012


3471 Comments


@Irving: I guess it is your call at the end of the day; after all, it is your review (plus you have way more experience than I do). It's just my unprofessional opinion, although I guess in this case you don't really need much more than a paragraph because my sense of the album is it's not really worth writing more than that about it.

NightProwler
September 8th 2012


6415 Comments


Us Danes are incredibly proud of MLTR. Sort of. I don't think they've held a concert here in many, many years, as only Asians listen to them (besides the ballads you mentioned in your review, every mother likes those).

I remember a radio-show with a quiz, a long time ago, where whoever was on the phone should answer which of the three following names was a band:

1. Michael Learns to Rock
2. Tony Tries to Tango
3. (Something)

Number 2 made me laugh hard

Digging: RVIVR - The Beauty Between

YankeeDudel
September 9th 2012


9313 Comments


I thought this was another stupid Snoxall definitive list

Digging: The The - Soul Mining

Irving
Staff Reviewer
September 9th 2012


7311 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

^ I is no understanding lol.

Tyrael
September 9th 2012


20900 Comments


who is irving tan zhi mian [2]

Irving
Staff Reviewer
September 9th 2012


7311 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Someone who misses Tyraelxy a great deal?

Tyrael
September 9th 2012


20900 Comments


I....

I'm deeply touched wow damn

Irving
Staff Reviewer
September 10th 2012


7311 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Haha Ily too man

Captain North
September 10th 2012


6789 Comments


"notoriously content to chomp on the mainstream bit" ...um, really? As if western culture is not exactly the same.

Irving
Staff Reviewer
September 10th 2012


7311 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

You guys got rid of the boybands long ago. We're still at it in full force.



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