11th May 2002
There’s been a bit of a word-of-mouth buzz surrounding Sweden’s Sahara Hotnights for a while now; at the Zodiac last Saturday, the noisy all-girl quartet from the small town of Robertsfors exuded power, rawness and punk energy (most evident in Josephine Forsman’s remarkable head-banging display on drums), but they also proved themselves to be a tight and competent ensemble, sassy and dripping with enthusiasm and verve. Singer Maria Andersson’s vocals harked back to Siouxsie Sioux and Saffron from Republica, but sometimes her shouty style made it hard to discern a tune. Like a gang of Suzi Quatros with attitude, their style veered from the Pixies on speed to any manner of Britpop bands like Lush, Elastica and Sleeper. Their songs were brash and arrogant, laden with fast basslines and rock riffs, but their lack of variety might work against them in the future – a few more interesting chord sequences would have been welcome amidst the repetition. Despite this, some tracks stood out, like the feisty Alright Alright (Here’s My Fist Where’s the Fight), Down and Out and the new single With Or Without Control, all from their recently released second album Jennie Bomb. Closing with No Big Deal, Sahara Hotnights had come and rocked and packed more chords into half an hour than most bands manage in a whole set.
The Soundtrack of Our Lives, however, were a different experience altogether. An extremely powerful live stage presence, they performed, rather than played; I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like it. Formed in Gothenberg, Sweden, in 1994 from the ashes of the domestically very successful Union Carbide Productions, a pedigree betrayed by their mature sound and style, the sextet fuse 60s rock n’ roll and psychedelia and 70s prog into a dreamy, delirious and forceful sound entirely of their own. Singer Ebbot Lundberg was a spectacle to behold: a beautiful, soulful and versatile voice emanating from black kaftan-clad bearded colossus; all arms, gestures and scary eyes, he even waded into the crowd during 21st Century Rip Off, exhorting us all to sit down. Comparisons to the Stones, Byrds, Captain Beefheart and even Pink Floyd are justified but come nowhere near to painting the whole soundscape; each song was an epic, sometimes quietening down towards the end a la The Doors before picking up again for a thundering finale. In a set mostly comprising songs from their third and most recent album Behind The Music, Ten Years Ahead came over as the best song Kula Shaker never covered, Tonight a dramatic lighter-waving tearjerking collaboration between keyboardist Martin Hederos and Ebbot, and Nevermore a fully-fledged prog-out. The crowd was most animated by the storming new single Sister Surround (released 13th May), a record of the week on Mark Radcliffe’s Radio 1 show. They clearly enjoy what they do and this was palpable; not to be confused with great new British bands like The Cooper Temple Clause or The Music, or fellow Swedes The Hives, the idiosyncratic TSOOL really are something else.