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Band’s new album boasts classic rock influence

Observer Scene | Thursday, February 9, 2006

Few bands emerge these days one could picture on tour with REO Speedwagon, The Who or Boston. But what The Darkness was to ’80s hair metal in 2003, The Hellacopters are to classic rock in 2006.

Music fans would be hard-pressed to find a rock ‘n’ roll band that embraces its classic rock influences as openly as these five men from Sweden. They serve as a stark contrast to the rise of college/indie rock artists, which often preach peaceful resolutions and imagination to their audiences.

Their newest album, “Rock & Roll Is Dead,” is a low risk, but spotlessly produced, rock album. Electric guitar progressions are catchy and clever, although not necessarily novel. The songs avoid being repetitive, but none of them sound rushed either. The album might not impress music enthusiasts with its imagination, but it definitely will not bore anyone.

While The Hellacopters don’t explore a broad range of style on the album, the songs don’t fall into the trap of all sounding alike. Tempos remain roughly the same on most tracks, but structures and hooks change quite a bit from song to song.

Some of the tunes could pass as exaggerated versions of Blues Brothers songs, but most of them come off as more genuine and sincere than the majority of commercial radio rock music.

The second track on the release, “Everything Is on TV,” represents The Hellacopters’ overall style – music that echoes classic rock, but with a modern cultural conscience. The song is a simple yet gorgeous mix of maturity, authority and pomp, but the song is about the damage television has inflicted on culture.

Although pick scrapes are all over radio-friendly pop punk records, here they sound inventive, surrounded by testosterone-driven vocals and the glamorous sound of three electric guitars.

Even the narrative style of songwriting, which has disappeared on modern commercial rock, is similar to the type of songs the Rolling Stones wrote 40 years ago. Just as The Darkness took advantage of their cartoonish appeal a few years ago, The Hellacopters don’t mind poking fun at themselves.

In “I’m in the Band,” Nicke Andersson explains the frustrations of trying to get around bouncers at clubs.

“I may not look like Jagger, / may not have money in the bank / I’ve got a pair of cheap sunglasses / and my castle may look like sand.”

“Murder on My Mind,” which reveals the haunting nature of the music industry, is about how the business side of the industry has killed rock ‘n’ roll music. The honest and frank lyrics about how The Hellacopters, who are at Liquor and Poker Records, feel about corporate execs is clear – “First you killed the heartbeat, then you killed the soul / You killed rock and roll, I got murder on my mind.”

Are The Hellacopters out to resurrect rock ‘n’ roll? Maybe. With an evident admiration for rock ‘n’ roll roots and brutal sincerity, they’re certainly one of the best candidates.