CD Review of Strawberry Weed by The Caesars
Recommended if you like
The Kinks, Guided by Voices
Label
Astralwerks
The Caesars:
Strawberry Weed

Reviewed by Mojo Flucke, PhD

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G
uitar-pop bands can be defined by who they sound like, right? This group is definitely the Kinks meet Guided by Voices. They out-Pollard Robert Pollard in songs like "Fools Parade," which kicks off the album and the one following it, "Waking Up." The chords are strangely GbV, and the breaks...is this truly not another one of his copious side projects? This band – which hails from Stockholm, not Dayton – seems to pack more punch and sincerity than Pollard's tunes of late, which sometimes seem so off-the-cuff and matter-of-fact that he couldn't have possibly been trying too awfully hard, since he just put out his last album roughly 14 days ago, right? Pollard should listen to those two cuts and the later track "Turn It Off," a distortion-laden lo-fi affair that literally sounds like GbV at its peak. (Like, even GbV-philes will swear their iPod database got corrupted and it's really a GbV song and not some band from across the pond.) Then he should look in the mirror and contemplate retiring.

But then track #3, "Boo Boo Goo Goo," is completely different, straight Kinks-ian power pop loaded with classic Farfisa organ lines. This cut already hit the top 20 in the band's native Sweden. Fans have loved this band over there for a decade, where its 2002 album Love for the Streets won the equivalent of a Swedish Grammy for kjick-assin'est album. "Crystal" also loads up on the Farfisa, one of the chosen organs of the 1960s garage rock scene, to add a great vintage feel. Throughout the record, the lyrics are cute, meaningless pop ("I'm going in orbit with you-ou, ooh-wee-ooh") which kinda mirrors the whole post-Dylan, pre-Zep 1960s garage-psych era in general ("A potion that I had too much of / It was a double shot of my baby's love.").

It's interesting, though: While 1960s American garage rockers dug the Muddy Waters and Bo Diddley beat and whipped up a lot of songs that emulated hits like "96 Tears," "Gloria," and "Wild Thing," Euro-garage sounded more harmonious, more British Invasion, more Merseybeat than their American counterparts, but just as sloppy and lo-fi. The Caesars celebrate this tradition, dropping in layered harmonies over upbeat melodies that just don't let up (read: slow down enough to bore). It's Manchester-y guitar pop, it's the stuff the Happy Mondays, Charlatans, and Inspiral Carpets were stabbing at, too. Except these guys, who have been around a decade, seem to have more polish and a more keen sense of what makes a nice, uncomplicated pop song, and how much fuzz and static is just enough without being self-consciously over-distorted or head-rattling. It's a quite refreshing twist on a well-plowed furrow in rock's back forty acres. It's Robert Pollard, except Brit-poppy better and served up by guys 20 years his junior. Worth a listen, but here's a spoiler alert: If you heard this was the band featured in the "Jerk It Out" iPod commercial a couple years ago and arrange your CD-buying around that, you're going to be disappointed that the track is conspicuously absent from the record. However, 99 cents will get it legally for you, anyway.

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