With a bleak location like Stockholm, Sweden, Holograms ’ self-titled debut LP (from label Captured Tracks) isn’t just the perfect way for them to break into the mainstream, but a chance to separate themselves from the stereotypes they were plagued with at home. Speaking for the working class, the tension-filled microcosm of factory work, dismal pay, and a government with an affinity for suicidal prophecies for their youth, it’s a wonder that they made this album in one piece. While Sweden is one of the wealthiest countries of the EU, these four punk rockers can still manage to transmit the angst that plagues us all. Grimy club and DIY sensibility dominates most of the record, but it’s the flawless melding of synth rock with garage punk that makes the frustration they uphold so real.
Skirting by with piss-poor equipment, the charm of the band resides in their earnestness to forgo their hard-knock life. It’s evidenced from lead singer Anton Spetzes’ attempts to have a more Manchester sound to the hollow and often straightforward percussion that peppers this release. Often times, the guitar work is reminiscent of both Jay Reatard and Joy Division’s Bernard Sumner, making almost pretty melodies over the disparaging lyrics, leaning toward a new wave appeal, much like their labelmates Wild Nothing and Craft Spells, only grittier. They are constantly on the move, driving one song into the other, often leaving on such an awkward note that it forces you to continue to the next track.
While the album opens up a bit quiet, “Monolith” bursts through the wax paper, surging through with few things left in its path of wreckage. It pays homage to their heroes without sounding like a carbon copy of them, a feat few bands have accomplished. The ongoing process of leaving behind their ungrateful country is a constant theme; they escape on the dancefloor in “Chasing My Mind”, and begrudgingly work for mere Kronas in “Memories of Sweat”. This theme kind of hits its apex in the first single, “ABC City”, imagining doomsday has come to the city that is both their home and an open wound; a light, airy synth contradicts the darkness.
Like a breath of fresh air, these Swedes might not have the aggression of their Danish counterparts, Iceage, but they take a more optimistic perspective. Holograms anything but a boring listen, and one that fights for your attention at nearly every turn. Holograms is a band looking toward the future, their name even implies it. They are almost there, but not completely.