The Culture In Memoriam - 'History's Dust'
This is the 2nd attempt to write a review of Swedish band 'The Culture in Memoriam', my 1st attempt was even longer and more bloated, self indulgent and written in post Brexit frustration, with simmering anger and sadness at the murder of Jo Cox. But in many ways it probably wasn't too far off the mark, as writing a frustrated review about a band who write music laced with frustration and anger was kind of appropriate. And after all, there are so many albums that we remember not just for the music but for the time period we listen to them, and actually 'History's Dust' has helped me through the last few weeks, simply because I feel I can identify with it.
This is 'The Culture in Memoriam's' 3rd album, and they are a 'collective', because whilst the band is based around songwriter Victor Håkansson, there are a range of musicians working on his project, and this gives the music an energy and maybe even an unpredictable element to it. 'History's Dust' is an album based on themes of social revolution, passionate advocacy of free life and it is hard hitting both lyrically and musically.
The great thing about 'History's Dust', and there are many positive things, is that there is a real individualism not only in the music, but in each of the tracks on the album – there’s no ‘album fillers’, you'll never get the feeling that tracks merge into each other, there is here a real sense of identity with each of the tracks. And whilst I probably quite frequently misjudge the tone of albums I review, I think in this album you will hear contradictions and conflicts, euphoria and sadness, hope and desperation, and that manifests itself with some magnificent bursts of sing-a-long ecstasy mixed with tender thoughtful lyrics.
Opening track 'History's Dust' sets the tone of the album with its vast array of instruments, and immediately I'm attracted to the musical detail - the glockenspiel hammering in the background, the flourish of the backing vocal tune at the end of the track, there's always one extra idea ready to be thrown in. 'Hey Ho' is 2 minutes 40 seconds of gritty satirical rock'n'roll, which is brilliantly constructed. By the time i get to the jaunty chorus in 'Born Lame' I'm so in love with the album that i have to return to the start of the album and listen to the 1st 4 tracks all over again - this is really my type of music. And the album gets better still, centrepiece track 'We Will Always Love you' is a glorious anthem which opens with a beautiful piano line and ends up having every instrument thrown at it in wilful abandon. The range of musical ideas keep flooding on in 'Oh My, Why', whilst 'Suits of Skid Row' again fascinates me lyrically, and reminds me as I write this that I still need to get hold of the complete album lyrics. The album concludes with 'All For Nothing' and a chorus to end all choruses.
So it goes without saying that I really highly recommend this album, which i found powerful, persuasive and extremely rewarding over multiple listens. But there is no doubt too that 'The Culture in Memoriam' have so much to say musically and lyrically that there is a danger that you might find yourself bamboozled with the range of instruments, melodies, voices and messages, especially when they throw the 'kitchen sink' at a track, and it almost becomes too much for the ears to decipher. But i don’t think I'd want it any other way, because this is also the beauty of 'History's Dust' - its a glorious treasure trove of ideas, complex instrumentation, and musical themes, and I’m convinced that everyone can take something positive away from it. It is also an album which has had a huge positive impact on me. Music may not directly change anything, as Victor Håkansson has said himself recently, but if this can inspire people to actually 'do something' to enact social change, well then maybe we'll finally get somewhere.
Nordic Music Review 9/10