Musings, Nits, and Praises: Mando Diao - Ode to Ochrasy

Musings, Nits, and Praises

A farrago of all things deemed blog-worthy by a music-loving, poetry-writing, humor-seeking English teacher

Mando Diao - Ode to Ochrasy

Sporting Mod culture looks and embracing their garage rock, British invasion, and punk influences, Mando Diao are hardly musical trailblazers. But when they're at their best, the cocksure rockers from Borlange, Sweden, meld gritty exuberance with infectious hooks better than many of their retro-inspired contemporaries. On their latest album, Ode to Ochrasy, Mando Diao temper their rowdy roots a bit in favor of broadening their sound.

Ochrasy (a word coined by co-singer Bjorn Dixgard) is a concept album of sorts. The songs' narratives stem from the band's experiences while touring and the farrago of characters they met, ranging from drug addicts ("Josephine"), to homeless buskers ("Good Morning, Herr Horst"), to would-be bombers ("Killer Kaczynski"). And, as you might expect, there are plenty of songs about girls.

Although the narrative concept creates a loose lyrical cohesion, the band seems undecided where to venture musically. Raucous stomps like "Killer Kaczynski," "Good Morning, Herr Horst," (which sounds like a revved up version of The Libertines' "The Man Who Would Be King") and the album's first single, "Long Before Rock'n'Roll" recall the sound of their previous albums, particularly Bring 'em In, but are a bit stale by comparison. On the smooth "Josephine" and the Lennon-esque "The New Boy," Dixgard and fellow singer Gustaf Noren prove their adept at penning delicate melodies, although placing the songs back-to-back stalls the album. Dixgard's finest moment may be the closing track, "Ochrasy." The acoustic ode to a fantasy world highlights the soulful dimension of Dixgard's voice seldom heard elsewhere on the album.

On the album's best songs the duo crafts engaging, pop-drenched melodies while retaining just the right measure of garage rock roughness. On the relentlessly driving "You Don't Understand Me," Dixgard's lament of lost love, heartbreak sounds downright dance-inducing. Noren's hyperactive "Morning Paper Dirt" provides a punch of power pop, while his verve-filled "Song for Aberdeen" sounds a bit like "Sister Golden Hair" on speed. "The Wildfire (If It Was True)"-the best song on the album and quite possibly Mando Diao's best song period-churns along on a train car-clatter rhythm before bursting into an ebullient, irresistible chorus.

The band isn't lacking for confidence. Noren has said he believes the band's work surpasses anything by the Who, the Small Faces, or the Kinks-even that they're better than the Beatles. Sure, everyone besides the band themselves and some diehard fans would beg to differ, but his confidence seems to stem more from the band's tireless efforts to be something special than from an Oasis-like braggadocio. And, it generates more buzz, of course. But if Mando Diao hopes to find a seat among the rock pantheon, they have to stretch themselves, to test their limits, to discover new musical territory. Ode to Ochrasy marks the band's first--sometimes awkward, sometimes brilliant--steps in that direction.

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