The Concretes, Boy, You Better Run Now (Up)

Posted June 28th, 2000 by admin · No Comments

The Concretes
Boy, You Better Run Now
By: Eric G.

I’m always apprehensive about bands that have more than five members. Maybe that’s close-minded of me, but I like the unity of close-knit ‘bands.’ When you start crowding the stage with backing singers and horn sections, things inevitably start to decline. If you’re not in the band, you shouldn’t be on stage. Most bands would be better off if they subscribed to that theory. Anyone who saw the Police on the Synchronicity tour (or at least the video) will know what I mean. The Concretes are from Sweden, and, like Lambchop, feature a revolving door of musicians that can swell to eighteen in concert. The whole ‘music collective’ approach is a tad on the hippie side for my taste, but, luckily, the music is pretty damn good.

The Concretes play simple yet quirky, unaffected pop. The music only seems unconventional because of the ‘no frills’ production. There’s a definite sixties influence but not in a kitschy sense. The vocals are strangely alluring. I can’t tell if it’s that patronizing way I like female Japanese singers when they stumble through their English, or if it’s just a sensual voice. Either way it sucks you into this den of engaging pop. The songs are loose and stark with guitars plucking away at unobtrusive melodies and keyboards holding down extended notes. It’s easy to see how this music could sound like a jumbled mess live, which might explain why the band rarely plays out, but it works well in this context. There are dark overtones to the music, for sure, exacerbated by the echo on the vocals and the heavy doses of reverb on the guitars, but, for the most part, The Concretes keep things pretty cheery.

“Teen Love” is an undeniably catchy opener, pairing infectious keyboards with a jaunty bass line. The vocals are pouty but irresistible. “Sunsets” presents itself as a ballad, slowly building around a simple drumbeat and sharp guitar arpeggios. The fluctuations are very subtle- it never actually climaxes, but it’s lethargic and wistful. Some songs have an immediate appeal while others take a few listens to reveal themselves completely. The strings and the horns play minor but effective roles; they certainly aren’t just used for show. On “Other Ones” The Concretes experiment with schizophrenic new wave. The wispy vocals echo over top indie rock guitars, handclaps, and a strange but effectual harmonica solo. The abrupt meter shifts make the song.

American bands like The Ladybug Transistor carve out a vaguely similar niche to The Concretes, playing on vintage equipment and churning out pleasant earcandy, but The Concretes seem to be more about music than their thrift-store-obsessed American peers are. Boy, You Better Run Now is hard to pigeonhole because The Concretes don’t really sound like too many other bands. You can certainly hear various influences, but nothing stands out too much. I mean, “Cabaret” has the same chord progression as “Stray Cat Strut”, but I wouldn’t necessarily accuse the band of listening to The Stray Cats. It’s pop music, and there are only twelve notes. The Concretes use them wisely.

Tags: review