Earlier this summer, I wrote about the Stockholm, Sweden-based garage punk outfit Sudakistan, and as you may recall, the band has a unique backstory: Comprised of Michell Serrano (vocals), Maikel Gonzalez (bass), Carlos Amigo (percussion) Juan Jose Espindola (drums) and Arvid Sjöö (guitar), the band features one native Swede — Sjöö — while the the other members emigrated from South America. And with the the release of their furious and incendiary full-length debut Caballo Negro, the Stockholm-based quartet quickly received attention for a sound that meshes Latin music — in particular, Latin rhythm, percussion and groove that’s part of the musical and cultural heritage of Serrano, Gonzalez, Amigo and Espiondola — with the blistering garage rock and punk of Thee Oh Sees, At the Drive-In and Death from Above 1979.
Swedish Cobra, the band’s forthcoming Daniel Bengtson-produced sophomore album is slated for a September 7, 2018 release, and the album reportedly finds the band capturing their raw and raucous live sound on record — with the five bandmembers recording in the same room, live to tape at Bengtson’s Studio Rymden, and with minimal takes and overdubs. As the band’s Michell Serrano says in press notes, “You can hear that on the album. it’s quite raw and very intense.” Interestingly, the material balances blistering fury with an experimental sensibility with the band expanding upon their sound — partially as a result of each individual band member’s role becoming more fluid, and partially through the employment of instrumentation beyond the usual punk rock/garage rock arrangements. “It was much more of a collaboration between the five of us,” Serrano explains. “Things flowed differently. Carlos sings on two or three songs, and Mikael sings on one. We swapped instruments quite a lot, and because we had access to everything in the studio, we were able to use some piano, some acoustic guitar and some mandolin, too.”
Lyrically speaking, the album is purportedly the most personal they’ve written to date — and although it’s not overtly political charged, the material does focus on their day-to-day reality, from partying excessively to moments of deep introspection, with each individual member contributing idea. “Our first album was made over five years, rather than five months, so the themes on it weren’t as heavy as this. Now, we’re talking about a lot of the things that we’ve gone through together since we started the band, as well as personal things – like, why do I keep repeating the same mistakes. We talk about pursuing our own Swedish reality, but that’s just because we’re living in Sweden – it’s relatable in any other country, I think,” Maikel Gonzalez says in press notes.
Swedish Cobra‘s first two singles, the furious and swirling psych punk/surf punk “Whiplash” and the mid-tempo, 90s grunge rock-inspired “Two Steps Back,” were urgent and passionate — but to me there was something sobering about the material, especially in light of a heightened age of nationalism, racism and xenophobia. Cultural exchange has inspired new takes on the familiar, new modes of thinking, new foods, new words — and more importantly, deeper empathy and understanding of our neighbors, of those men women and others from far away. Interestingly, “Last Love Supreme,” Swedish Cobra‘s latest single is a swooning mid-tempo ballad with soaring hooks and explosive blasts of feedback that sounds — to my ears at least — as though it drew from mariachi, psych rock and garage rock simultaneously, thanks in part to a classic quiet, loud, quiet song structure.
Certainly, from the album’s first three singles, Swedish Cobra may arguably be one of the year’s most unique, passionate and downright interesting albums, and possibly one of the most necessary of any genre, because it affirms what can happen when diverse people and ideas intermingle and influence each other, and perhaps more important that we should protect and honor the immigrant and what they bring.