How is it that Sweden a nation of 9 million people has come to
produce what seems like a million contemporary garage rock bands? During the
past half-decade The Hives, the Soundtrack of Our Lives, Division of Laura Lee,
the (International) Noise Conspiracy, Sahara Hotnights, and Mando Diao (among
others) have had numerous recordings released, raising the question of whether
world needs another ' 60s-inspired Swedish band.
The Jan Martens Frustration answers with a "quite possibly." Coming to us from Gothenburg, the band plays sleazy, bass-heavy garage rock with a psychedelic bent. This debut release is something of a patchwork effort, combining newly recorded material with some previously released tracks.
A brief, brooding bit of instrumental psychodrama kicks off the album before segueing into the throbbing, menacing sounds of "Convolutions," with its wah-wah guitar and bass; the drummer plays just behind the beat as Martens catalogs the ways in which he can and will disappoint and desert any who dare get too close to him. That this same track also incorporates a brief mid-song freak-out reminiscent of "Strawberry Fields Forever" and ultimately fades out via a very goth keyboard dirge testifies to this band's chops and ambition. Dueling guitar leads and a fair bit of Martens' mania come to the forefront on "Good Day Today" before things simmer down a bit on the very catchy, radio-ready "Pole Position."
The album is something of a roller-coaster ride from there. The closing track, a B-side entitled "Catch As Catch Can," is an interesting diversion from the psychedelic garage sound that predominates elsewhere, as it employs a straightforward pop structure centered on a ringing guitar figure and the titular chorus, with fairly upbeat lyrics. Elsewhere, I dug the "Rawhide"-esque, loping gallop of "Linger On" and the quiet/loud dynamics employed on "Through the Fence," but was left cold by the bong-hit-intensive "Reaching Over" and its agro-psych buddy, the backwards-tape-heavy "A Few Too Many," and the keyboard-dominated (more Doors than ? and the Mysterians) "Gone." But kudos must be given to Martens himself throughout this album for his fantastically melodic bass playing.
Ultimately, despite his band's name, Jan Martens does not seem all that frustrated a little bit spooky and a whole lot of kooky, but not frustrated. The real frustration to be found here lies on the part of this reviewer, disappointed that such a talent too often treads in trite and twee flower-power territory.