Odds are, none of you have ever heard of Mando Diao. They are from Sweden. They, at first glance, would probably be written off as another garage rock band.
So, this is a rather loaded statement, but I fully believe Mando Diao is the mod-rock version of Swedish hardcore legends Refused. This is how important I feel their music is.
While this album would be [poorly] classified as "garage rock" by most people if they gave it a cursory listen, there is so much more going on here. Calling this album "garage rock" would be like calling The Shape Of Punk To Come "hardcore." This is a record that while positioned strongly in one genre [in this case, mod rock along the lines of the Who, the Kinks, the Beatles, et al], doesn't hesitate to explore it's boundaries, and bend them in appropriate spots. Influences of classic R&B, blues, 50's pop balladry, and even funk show up all over the album and never weigh a single song down; instead they accentuate the songs to the point where each one is memorable.
While there's a lot of musical talent in this quintet, Mando Diao's real asset is their dual vocalists. Both have distinctive voices, with Gustaf sounding a bit like Julian Casablancas of the Strokes, and Bjorn having a much more soulful, robust voice. Each takes the lead for exactly half of the album's songs, and the way the disc is sequenced, you never hear one man's voice for too long. It's an easy way to keep a listener's ears glued to the speakers, and it works.
Mando Diao is better than pretty much every current band I can think of to compare them too. While the Hives have the attitude, Mando Diao has the attitude and varied musical ability. While the Strokes are excellent songwriters, Mando Diao can write amazing songs and don't have to purposely record their album lo-fi so critics will like it. Hell, even Mando Diao knows they're good. To quote their press release:
"Nothing can stop us. We honestly believe our record is better than anything by the Who, or the Kinks, or the Small Faces. It may even be better than many of the Stones' or Beatles' records. We're competing with the biggest bands in this world... So bring 'em in. We'll take 'em down."Now as a critic, there is nothing more I wanted to do than completely tear this band a new asshole after reading that. But the album is so damn good that they honestly might be right. That scares me, in a good way.
This album will be, at least for me, the bar that any mod/garage band will need to try and pass if they want my praise. I can't highlight songs because they're all equally good. A virtually spotless debut, and worth your hard-earned money.
Stream the entire album here