On Club 8's older records, the Swedish pop group’s music wafts from the speakers like a perfumed cloud. Singer Karolina Komstedt’s voice, breathy and mournful, floats on a cloud of gently repeating keyboards and guitars. Their album artwork uniformly features some combination of flowers, mildly forlorn-looking blond women, and sun-dappled fields. If you want to know where Club 8 is now -- mentally, sonically, and stylistically -- look no further than the cover of The People’s Record. It’s full of parallel lines, primary colors, and the band members looking hip in a black-and-white photo. It’s familiar, because everyone else has already done it.
Indeed, the whole record finds the members of Club 8 putting their own sound aside to try on some other, more popular ones. Supposedly, they’ve traveled the world, and found new inspiration from Brazilian and West African sounds. This mostly leaves them sounding like other bands who’ve done this bit before, most notably Vampire Weekend, whose success a casual listener would be excused for assuming was the real inspiration for the sudden infusion of sunny, syncopated guitars.
But album opener “Back To A” also finds the band sounding like another indie group: Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Komstedt mixes breathiness and falsetto, singing over some vaguely martial drumbeats and a high synth line for a sound you’re not going to find in Senegal unless Karen O is in town. There are also touches of Mates of State, the Rapture, and others.
Sometimes, the band forms something interesting and new from these starting points. “Back To A” adds a bit of energy to what is essentially a classic Club 8 arrangement, making for a genuinely rousing track that connects with both the heart and the hips. “Shape Up!,” which mixes in more than a few Mates of State-y organ lines and sudden breakdowns, is another enjoyable moment. Much of the record, though, is like “Be Mad, Get Ill, Be Still” (the most obviously Vampire Weekend-aping track), with Komstedt barely keeping up with her band, which she seems surprised to find playing triple-time.
I’m all for change, even in a genre I revere as much as Swedish pop. Taken By Trees, the new project of The Concretes’ former lead singer Victoria Bergsman, which draws from Pakistani Qwaali music, is a great example of an artist stretching her creative muscles in new, interesting directions. That is not the case with The People’s Record.