Thursday, June 05, 2008

Union Carbide Productions

One of the favorite bands from the 80’s (that wasn’t from L.A.) was Sweden’s Union Carbide Productions – one of the wildest and noisiest Detroit-styled bands ever and an obvious influence on the later Northern scene of bands like Turbonegro and the Hellacopters. Guitars were layered seemingly by the dozens and the sound, augmented by crazed saxophones, is a wonderful slab of power and madness.

In The Air Tonight opens with “Ring My Bell” and all of the elements are there right from the start. Feedback drenched, wah-wah guitars, wailing saxs, pounding piano and a manic energy that doesn’t let up for a split second. You are nearly plastered to the wall by the force of the blast coming out of the speakers!
“Financial Declaration” continues in the same vein – Ebbot shrieks like he is pissed as hell that “I want more!” as the maelstrom continues swirling around him. This is so goddam beautiful and ugly at the same time – chaos at its best! Everyone literally sounds like they could fall apart at any second and yet it all comes together as a fantastic whole. Coming at a time when drek like glam-metal and new disco was popular, this was a true revelation – heavy on the reveling! Seriously, this is so good is damn near takes my breath away.

The lyrics in “Summer Holiday Camp” seem to be making fun of partiers as the band continues to fight each other musically and the winner is the listener! Still more wackiness prevails in “Cartoon Animal” which concludes with Ebbot imitating the Tazmanian Devil while guitars scream around him!

Showing their debt to the MC5, “So Long” is UCP’s version of the 5’s “Come Together” – the tones are almost identical, which caused much jealousy from me! Of course, they change it up and make it their own, but the homage in undeniable.

Jarring, a-rhythmic musical yelps of pain dominate “In the Air Tonight” as Ebbot holds a conversation with himself about living in his own world. “Three Mile Eyes” (most certainly a play on 3 mile island) is a more rockin’ rhythm experiment continues to explore the madness.

More noise emanates from “Teenage Banker”, a story of someone born into money trying to defend himself while the instruments seem to arguing with him in the background. This does fall into disarray at the end as the guitar tries to have the last “word”!

“Pour Un Flirt Avec Toi” is a free-jazz saxophone exploration between singer Ebbot and guitarist Bjorn. Whether or not this was directly due to the MC5’s jazz leanings or not, it certainly adds to the comparison.

The album closer is drenched in practically ambient noise by guitarists Olsson and Patrik Caganis– but with a beat as bassist Per Helm and drummer Henryk Rylander try to hold things together – while Ebbot explains to you why you needn’t worry! This sounds like it could be the soundtrack to Paradise Lost as it sucks you in!

I need to have a better understanding of the chronology of Union Carbide, but I believe that the following album was Financially Dissatisfied, Philosophically Trying (taken from a Mick Jagger quote, of course). This has a very similar sound and style to In the Air Tonight.

This opens with just some quiet random sound as “At Dawn” before exploding into “Born in the 60’s” – super high energy and super loud guitars dominate as Ebbot screams about – to my ears – hippies and idealists turning their backs on their beliefs and becoming their own worst nightmares.

“San Francisco Boogie” is off-kilter enough to sound almost Captain Beefheart influenced in the verses, though it is a little more “normal” rock in the choruses. Very cool and very uniquely UCP. More lyrics about hippies and shout-outs (sing-outs?) to 60’s songs, too!

There is a short, mid-Eastern excursion in “13th Trip” before moving into a darker, minor-key mood piece called “Down on the Farm”. They cut back on the tempo but not the intensity for this piece. I love the line “see the world through a bottle of wine” which echoes the desperation of “do we still have time?!”

After that interlude, they come back as strong as ever in the vile “Maximum Dogbreath”! The pace and the guitars are relentless on this one with wails of feedback and gang choruses singing counter-point to Lundberg’s tale of bad breath!

More swaths of pure noise bathe “Here Comes God”, a slow pounder that is fierce and unrestrained despite holding back on the speed. But the sound is augmented with sitar, spinet and acoustic guitars. A tough yet lovely mix of sounds.

Pure r’n’r returns with “Another Rock’n’Roll Statement” – faster and louder than ever! “Glad to Have You Back” has a beat like a Detroit assembly line and more discordant piano and sax layered over the backing. Much more psychedelic is the acoustic dominated “Career Opportunities” (this has nothing to do with the Clash song!). This reminds me slightly of the Thunderclap Newman tune, “Something in the Air” or Ebbot’s later outings in Soundtrack of Our Lives.

The dissonant and cacophonous (and oddly titled) “Swedish Meatball Revival” jam finishes out FDPT with an appropriate clamor!

For those who think that r’n’r should be teetering on the edge of madness and be blaring and obnoxious as hell, as for those who would like to see where bands like the Hellacopters got their ideas, pick up these two fantastic albums!