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Music

Millencolin @ Club Soda (March 9th)

Posted by Stefan / March 11, 2009

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The other night I dreamed that an unnervingly bronzed, much younger version of me was inaudibly mouthing something that, presumably, was quite moving. I strained, deep in my own reverie, to give audience to this late-90s apparition, but fared no better than the conviction that whatever I was telling myself, it was Worth Hearing. In fact, I am beguiled enough by the concept of self to suspect that whatever my thirteen-year old iteration wished to impart could, with a measure of unimpeachable validity, stand in for a truer representation of me. It’s more plausible that he simply wanted to remind me that I used to think punk rock was awesome, and that I shouldn’t take the opportunity to see and interview a one-time favorite band for granted.

Millencolin embodies the skate-punk sound that displaced the scary, glue sniffing street kid stuff and ushered in the era of oft-maligned New Jersey mallrat black shoes/pink laces pop-punk crapola. To an objective audience, distinguishing one incarnation from the other might seem like splitting hairs or rationalizing one’s own misguided foray into hyper-aware, improbable nonchalance. But then anyone who lived it knows the difference between Strung Out and The Ataris, Face to Face and Blink 182. No matter that each micro-generation has its own thoughts on the matter, there is such a thing as real in the context of awkward adolescent escapism. Put simply, as long as a small, like-minded group of individuals believed that their music was relevant, it may as well have been.

Pennybridge Pioneers – arguably the band’s best work - was released at a time when my primary metric of artistic growth (or, more accurately, my preoccupation with there being a lack thereof) was speed. The legitimacy of each new album turned almost exclusively on the axis of “is it fast?” An answer in the affirmative would elicit approving nods, sympathetic hand-made devil horns, and the possibility of strenuous episodes of air drumming. Should the band try something a little more down-tempo, say, featuring a heart-felt attempt at radio-friendliness, I’d pronounce them sell-outs with the self-assuredness of someone with non-negotiable binary vision. Of course, lyrics, guitar riffs, palm muting, and cover art were all likewise relevant indicators of punkiness. But nothing reeked of compromise like a drummer unwilling to pound the shit out of his instrument.

The album …bridged (ha!) the band’s pervasive introspection with a genuine commitment to (relatively) detailed song craft. Despite its rudimentary foundations, each track benefited from a complexity that the band, and many of its contemporaries, had shied away from. In doing so, it normalized a less snarling, more technical version of punk. Heartfelt but not pathetic, at times speedy but never blistering, it was a natural step for a self-consciously soft-core band. I couldn’t have known then that it would be one of the few enduringly listenable records of my proto-typical suburban youth. For years, I couldn’t hear the opening seconds without remembering exactly how it felt to sit by my best friend’s poolside – girlfriend in tow – and feel like I had everything figured out. Reentering that hermetically sealed moment was as simple as hitting play.

The aged crowd interspersed with some younger faces made the passing of time since my own interest in the scene faded impossible to ignore. Not all was lost. The fast/not fast distinction, for instance, is alive and well. Lead guitarist Erik Ohlsson endeared himself to the audience with a nod to this city’s love of “the fast songs.” (This proved ill-advised, as a few songs later he found himself apologizing for playing a slower song.)

Despite the crowd’s obvious approval, and in part because of the band’s over-the-top enthusiasm, I found myself more than a little restless watching the performance. At sixteen – the peak of my involvement with the scene – it would not have dawned on me that I was watching anyone perform anything. That naivety is an essential component of punk music. Unless you believe that what you’re feeling is somehow more real than the alternative, it quickly losses its purpose. That’s not to suggest an objective observer can determine the precise moment at which this occurs. The band and its fans clearly remain moved. Before the show, the outfit’s truly gentlemanly drummer Frederik Larzon assured me that the sense of fun and privilege has not dissipated, and that the band simply loves touring and everything that comes with it. So I couldn’t help but feel guilty as I snuck out early, as though I was betraying some deeply embedded part of my past. When old tropes stop being funny, but everyone around you keeps laughing, it’s natural – and uncomfortable - to suspiciously wonder why.

Photo from www.millencolin.com

Discussion

8 Comments

ugh / March 12, 2009 at 12:59 am
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Stefan, mate, it's a good review and a nice reflection on your teenage self, but could you please refrain from writing like you're trying to impress your Sociology 101 professor on the first take-home essay of the year?
S. / March 12, 2009 at 09:41 am
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dear ugh,

for you: anything.

hugs and kisses,

s.
golu dolls / February 2, 2019 at 06:06 am
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nice post
kanchipuramsarees / February 2, 2019 at 06:07 am
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nice post
kanchipuramsarees / February 2, 2019 at 06:07 am
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nice post
herbal powder / February 2, 2019 at 06:07 am
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nice post

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