Mando Diao may be from Sweden but, as proven on their third LP, Ode to Ochrasy, the members are quite well-versed in American culture. The first two album titles alone name check Unabomber Ted Kaczynski and hockey player Luc Robitaille (and yes, I’m aware that Robitaille is Canadian, but when you play the majority of your career in Los Angeles, you are a part of American culture). Musically, however, Mando Diao successfully plunders from great bands of multiple nationalities. What Ode to Ochrasy lacks in originality is mostly redeemed in energy and passion.
Slightly more sloppy and less poppy than local peers the Hives and Hellacopters, the quintet showcases Gustaf Noren and Bjorn Dixgard as blistering singer/songwriters, and they have written an album full of catchy punk with ’60s Brit-pop flourishes. They gleefully and shamelessly rip off “Lust for Life” on the otherwise worthy new single “Long Before Rock ‘n’ Roll.” “The Wildfire (If It Was True)” is a jangly pop gem with a bright sing-along chorus, and “Amsterdam” is a sharp, swinging distillation of the Zutons’ distillation of the Animals. While Bjorn Olsson of Soundtrack of Our Lives lent a hand with production, Haglund and Dixgard kept it simple and straightforward here, alternating tight and ragged performances as is appropriate for their respective songs.
Around the ninth track, Ochrasy downshifts from fifth to second gear, with three of the last six songs being Kinks-flavored ballads. At this point, Mando Diao has left the garage and let melody take over. Even the up-tempo songs are more colorful. It’s a marked, initially peculiar shift, but on repeated listens this “second side” certainly helps Mando Diao differentiate itself from its Scandanavian punk contemporaries.
The rock assaults are louder and faster than on 2005’s Hurricane Bar, which marks a shift further from the Oasis-style upper-mid-tempo bombast that permeated much of Mando Diao’s previous work. Although it’s still a band that invites too many comparisons, with Ode to Ochrasy, Mando Diao is one step closer to making a name for itself.