The unfortunate conclusions that come with modern pop-punk is a four or five piece band with nothing but pretty faces and music that your grandma wouldn't call actual punk. A band that appears regularily on MTV with their ironic, humorous and cute videos of odd relationships, social commentaries and high school dramatics that are about as deep as a kiddie pool. It's only natural that real pop-punk should remain in the underground. What's real pop-punk, you ask" Well, some say that pop-punk began with the Ramones. It's basically hardcore dumbed down for the masses. More commercially successful, accessable and, to a certain extent, more fun. As the Ramones created a new trend that continued through the early eighties, they handed the torch to Descendents, an intellegent, political and rougher version of pop-punk. In the mid nineties, we had NOFX, Green Day and Millencolin carry the title.
Millencolin is a band that started in 1992 in the mystic land of Sweden. Drawing comparisons to Lagwagon, Foo Fighters and even Bad Religion and the Clash, it's obvious that Millencolin were and still are an incredibly influenced band that don't follow the agenda that most pop punk bands are supposed to mature. The band has shown signs of aging, but their latest release, Kingwood, is a youthful blast of punk, power, and enthusiasm wrapped up nicely in a twelve song package which comes five minutes short of forty minutes. Short, undying and from beginning to end it's incredibly entertaining.
It's mostly unfair to draw comparisons when reviewing an album, but since Millencolin resemble many bands at fragmented times, it's probably essential that the reader should know what kind of music that Millencolin embody. With all the influences that shine on this album, it’s only natural to figure it’s a diverse punk album. For example, Cash or Clash
would sound at home on the debut album from The Clash
. Brief, energetic and full of power chords and a fist pumping chorus, this song may be as original as Ezee Cheeze™, but it’s an extremely fun song that keeps the mood light in the album. Things could not be more different for the follow up track, though, titled Shut You Out
which sounds like a clone of early Jimmy Eat World
, with it’s emotional vocals, hammering chord guitar and a repetitive lead, this song may be influenced by a semi-emo band but sounds as pure as white bread. Ray
is reminiscent of early Bad Religion
, with a hard rock feel that comes out in a comfortable sounding punk rock anthem. Clearly, this is a territory that Millencolin are familiar with, so it’s only natural that this is a strong track. It’s these kinds of songs that are highlights, songs like the finale Hard Times
, which is a powerful rock anthem sped up to suit the band’s punk rock needs. The fascinating thing about this song is that if it was any slower, more dramatic or even produced slightly cleaner it would’ve wrecked the song completely.
Since the songs are individually unique, it might come as a turnoff to listeners expecting a punk rock bonanza from beginning to end. While this may not be the case, the album does a solid job of keeping it’s roots in play while experimenting with other genres. Throughout the album, we hear hints of Ska in Novo
, a reference to alt-rock Foo Fighters
style in the short, simplistic and ultimately enjoyable song Moosemen’s Jukebox
, but the most entertaining would have to be the minute and a half length supposed “filler” song Simple Twist of Hate
. Probably the most aggressive song on the album, this album is more prehistoric hardcore than anything. Probably the fastest song on the album, it doesn’t take away the rhythmical quality that the slower songs have to offer. But the best thing about the song is that it sounds neither modern nor aged. It sounds content with it’s eighties hardcore influences, but it also doesn’t quite like the rest of the album. While the album is a modern rendition of nineties pop punk, this song doesn’t seem out of place at all.
With all these influences being drawn, it either means that a band is entirely original or a carbon copy with little or no originality whatsoever. The question is, which is it in the case of our Swedish skate-punks" Well, I’ve though about this. They’re not unique. They occasionally experiment to a certain degree, but it seems that the influence in each song dominates the band’s sound. This is the truth in Millencolin – they aren’t that original. But even after 14 years, the band has kept their sound fresh and exciting, even after most bands they shared the spotlight with have moved on to more mature matters like politics and… well, politics. This is a very good thing for a band. They’ve kept their sound for a decade plus without getting boring, unoriginal or even unsatisfactory to hardcore nineties pop punkers. Clearly, this band has something going for them, even after fourteen years.
This is a fantastic punk album not only because of it’s diversity and influences, but because it remains loyal to the nineties pop-punk stage. While this may be a turnoff to modern fans of the genre, it may come as a surprise that most bands that have established a firm ground in the mainstream have had a major influence from this band in one way or another. This album is a fun reminder that this band are still on top of their game, even ten years after the game may have ended. Overall, this is a fantastic album that I'd reccomend to fans of early punk, nineties alt. rock and pop punk, and anyone who has a hankering for reminiscing with the nineties.