Makthaverskan: Electrifying Post-Punk from across the Atlantic
John Wilson | Thursday, November 2, 2017
Just a few years ago I basically couldn’t name a Swedish musician besides ABBA, and I certainly couldn’t tell you where the city of Gothenburg was on a map. Now, I still don’t know much about Gothenburg itself, but I do know a significant number of its residents and the stories of their lives through the city’s expanding music scene. This unlikely exposure is all thanks to the Boston record label Run For Cover Records, which has signed a number of punk and indie-leaning bands in its over decade of existence, including the American releases of albums from a trio of Gothenburg bands. On October 20, they released the third album “Ill” from the band Makthaverskan. While some of Sweden’s rap exports have enjoyed a modicum of recent fanfare in America, the growing indie-rock scene, consisting of Makthaverskan’s Gothenburg neighbors Westkust and The Sun Days among others, is developing a cult following in the United States.
Like their Gothenburg counterparts, Makthaverskan (which means woman in charge in Swedish) wield a mix of post-punk and dream-pop elements reminiscent of 80’s pop-infused rock. They sound like Joy Division with Edith Piaf on lead vocals or The Smiths if Morrissey had just binged on a tank of helium. Vocalist Maja Milner’s lyrics often dwell upon the same subjects as their 80’s influences, namely the triumphs, and more often, the tribulations of love and relationships. The three opening songs on the album, “Vienna,” “Leda” and “In My Dreams” touch on the longing inherent in the pursuit of unrequited love, the effects of a toxic relationships and the impossibility of love beyond our fantasies. These themes occur throughout the album, and while the lyrics are never quite as biting in their anger as on previous albums, they are often bleaker. On album standouts “Eden” and “Siren,” Milner sings lyrics such as “Humanity equals misery” and “And I don’t know if it was love / And I don’t know where I belong.”
This hopelessness is set against Hugo Randulv’s jangling, melodic guitar hooks that often belie the songs dreary messages with their upbeat flare. Irma Krook on bass and Andreas Wettmark on drums now round out the band, following the departure of guitarist Gustav Data Andersson following the band’s second album to focus on solo music. The album doesn’t necessarily suffer from the loss of a second guitar, substituting the intertwining guitars of previous records for a slightly sparser though more pronounced guitar sound. Wettmark’s drumming in particular stands out amidst this album’s noticeably improved production. The high quantity of inventive drum fills alone is not something you will find on almost any post-punk album like this. What is always going to immediately capture listeners’ ears, however, will be Milner’s voice. Just listening through headphones, you can immediately tell her vocals are large enough to completely fill any room; she excels at conveying the emotion behind her words.
This is a band that is very much on the rise, and as they ascend they pave the way for a type of rock oriented music scene that hasn’t before existed in Sweden. It may not sound it now, but Makthaverskan has come a long way from allegedly playing on a pots and pans drum sets, in the days before they could afford a real kit. As they have now mastered the type of dreamy pop-punk they set out to create, it will be interesting to see where the band goes next.
Label: Run For Cover Records
If you like: Joy Division, The Cure, The Smiths
Tracks: “Comfort,” “Eden,” “Siren”
Shamrocks: 4 out of 5