Norway - Full Moon 36 - 09/25/99
Finally, it's here! After rushing to the store to get it, the first spin
of Madrugada's debut CD got rid of any doubts I might have had about this band
being able to live up to the expectations left by their two previous EPs,
both received very well by the press. They were up to the task, and this CD
fared even better in the Norwegian newspapers (we have
no printed music press to talk about in this country these days), and also resulted in some
high profile television appearances. So there has been a lot of hype, but
it seems mostly deserved.
Three songs from the aforementioned EPs have survived onto the CD, although
in re-mixed/-recorded/-arranged versions: Belladonna, the best cut from
the first self-titled EP, and Higher, the best
one from the New Depression EP, both presented
in refined shape here, but Strange Colour Blue (also from the first EP), I now
find a tad boring, and even the new version can't make me overlook the lyrics ...
The ten new songs on the album are also focused around the Madrugada melancholy -
soothing, grey, but still blistering blue. It starts off real good with Vocal,
which has Høyem's vocal flowing beautifully for almost seven minutes, and
then onto Beautyproof, which rocks the boat a little more, but here, as on some of the
other songs, I have a feeling that Madrugada's lyrics are somewhat
focused on style and catchy phrases, more cool than content. So when the music fails
to impress, like on the slower Shine, things get a little more forgettable.
But this is all forgotten and forgiven when they present the superb Sirens.
Starting like a Crime & the City Solution epos, a minimal, but enthralling guitar
theme takes over, and leads the song into a demon-ridden panorama, saturated with emotions.
Everything here fits like hand in glove: the repetitive bass foundation, the emotionally loaded guitar,
the dynamic build-up of the song, the soothing break, the melody, the lyrics (apparently about feelings of existential solitude).
Pure blue excellence!
This Old House is another slow one, nice and
hummable, but also on the more forgettable side. Electric has an over the top cliche melody,
and is a low point. Then we have Salt, where they try hard to sound like Nick
Cave & the Bad Seeds. The problem is, Nick Cave's lyrics and vocal intensity
cannot easily be matched or copied, at least not without ending up sounding
like a parody or imitation. And this is neither the first nor the best (and probably not the last ...) attempt from Madrugada.
But luckily, the arrow points upwards again on Norwegian Hammerworks Corp.,
with Høyem now mostly talking, rather fast, over a steady, repetetive theme.
A nice interlude to Quite Emotional, a most exquisite ballad, which reminds me of Jeff Buckley, although
Høyem's voice does not convey the same amount of daring fragility. But once again - excellent!
Renown producer John Agnello has mixed the album, but perhaps making
the guitars distortion/feedback too lush in places - I'm sure Madrugada are a lot noisier
live - and also probably contributed to making the band's sound even more American.
Bob Egan (Freakwater, Wilco) did some important contributions with his fine steel guitar playing.
And Jon Terje Rovedal has again added some hammond organ to the mix.
But of course, this is all based around
a band effort, where the input from Burås (guitars), Jacobsen (bass), Lauvland (drums), and Høyem (vocals)
are welded together, and of equal importance. And for a debut record, we can't demand much
more than is delivered here: It is low on variation, but it also defines a sound
for the band to expand from. Here are some weak spots, but also several jewels.
Enough to make me wait for the future Madrugada recordings with excitement.
If you're lucky enough to get hold of the limited edition of this CD, you'll get
these extra three songs: Wheelchair, Move and Sweet Simone.
(Thanks to Apollon, Mo i Rana, for retreiving a copy for me!)
And you might also want to check out the new Petre/Universal compilation
Jeg gleder meg til år 2000 (I'm looking forward to the year 2000), where Madrugada contributes with Don't Let The Flowers Down,
written by Kalle Storm Andersen, former member of Saturday Cowboys and Ghostriders,
recently active with his Last Detail, where also (again) Jon Terje Rovedal shows up.
(Curiously, this compilation titles Madrugada's new CD Industrial Space ...
maybe an early working title ... or perhaps a bad phone connection.)
One last thing: Madrugada have told the press that they're somewhat tired of hearing
musical references, but if you like this record, I've got to mention (again)
Simon Bonney's 1992 LP Forever. Buy that one too.
Virgin Norway has set up a
which is a mess through my browser.
This CD will be also available as a double vinyl album early next year (2000) - editor's note
Copyright © 1999 Knut Tore Breivik