“I love the rain in Europe” sings Andy Hekkandi, as the first line on “Stockholmainia” kicks in. “As it falls on my mind”. He means it more than most, I guess? After all, he swapped Melbourne for Sweden (my knowledge of the Australian city all comes from cricket but it still looks like a big deal!). The singer in Trench Dogs did that so he could play in a European rock n roll band – and this is Trench Dogs second record.
There, we’re all caught up. But here’s the only thing that really counts: on any level, “Stockholmainia” is astonishing.
Look, I am going to do this at some point, so I am going to do it now: they sound like Dog’s D’amour, not just in the music (although I’d say there’s a fair bet that if you like Tyla and the lads you’ll like this too) but it’s the words. Seldom – apart from when Tyla J Pallas writes the next track for the aforementioned DD – do you get this level of poetry in your rock n roll.
“A Little Overdressed” will do as a spotlight. It’s the one where the opening line came from. You put it on and its immediately cool. Loose limbed, raggedy yet chic, music that Hanoi Rocks fans will love, but “when I die tonight, will I be a little overdressed for hell” offers Hekkandi. Right, now we’ve got something interesting. No “maybe, baby” shit here.
So by turns, he’s in bars with Japanese businessmen apologising to his mother because he “can’t do this anymore”, on “Skulldrunk and Headsick”, while on the ballad “Bridges” he’s sitting on a hill watching the ruins of his life. It’s quite something.
Everywhere you look there’s something that’s more interesting than most – if not all – modern glam. The blues infused, harmonica drenched “Wine Stained Eyes” is a cracker (“stop worrying baby, even the sober die….”) but its “Pumpkin Soup” that really hits home. Fragile, acoustic stuff (and in another life Hekkandi would have been a troubadour) it captures our hero reminiscing on his mistakes, before a note of hope: “I’ve kept myself out of prison….and I play music with the best guys I think I’ve ever fucking known!”
And that’s sort of the point of this, you’d imagine. That however bad this gets, there’s always music. There’s always this music. The Stones-ish “Georgian Red” is a party and colourful proves yet again that this band (pulled from every corner of the earth it seems) is incredibly skilled, Mattias Johansson on lead guitar always seems to conjure up something perfect.
This is a record that proudly lives in the 70s and 80s. Modern production ensures it doesn’t sound dated, but there’s no doubt that the men who create “I’ll Be Silver (You’ll Be Gold)” or the almost country flavoured “Flatliners” have little truck with the 21st century, but as the chorus for this one says: “oh the night is long, so play another old Thunder song”. Quite.
Indeed, as “Maroon” – arguably the most strident hard rocker here – kicks in with its 80s lead, there’s a real feeling that Trench Dogs are just a band that is playing what it loves and what it was put on this earth to do.”
And, as “Shapeshifters” rumbles in with bass from the more filthy end of the bottom end, maybe its hook sums it all up: “this is how I survived the suburbs” it goes, and maybe this is what it’s all about. This music, this rock n roll, has always been there for the dreamers, those who made music their escape.
“Stockholmainia” is no rehash of the past, though, instead, it’s a statement. Trench Dogs are here and they are planning to make their mark.