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Pop War


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  • The common theory that people soften as they age has no better rock & roll case in point than the career of Swedish musician Nicke Andersson. Both of his first major bands, death metal legends Entombed and cult-favored hard rockers the Hellacopters, gradually scaled back in sonic extremity with each album they released, and that pattern has repeated itself once again with the mainstream rock persuasions of Andersson's third band, Empire State Electric. What's next, ABBA? Well don't bet against it, but for now at least, ISE appears focused on indulging Andersson's favorite `70s classic rock sounds via 2012's sophomore Pop War LP, as the following song descriptions will make quite evident. Despite its synthetic kick-off, opener "Uh Huh" handclaps its way straight to glam rock heaven (think T. Rex, Mott the Hoople, etc.), "Back on Main" meticulously duplicates every last detail of vintage period Kiss minus the makeup, the tinkling ivories and decadent stumble of "Waltz for Vincent" clearly reveres Alice Cooper's gothic glam nightmare, and the distinctly bipolar "Enough to Break Your Heart" goes from smuggling a Molly Hatchet lick out of the south to evolving into the string-laden power pop of Cheap Trick's "Dream Police." As engulfed as he is by nostalgia, though, Andersson is clearly equally obsessed with perfecting his pop-oriented songcraft (don't forget that album title), and it's therefore ironic that both the strongest and weakest efforts here fall into that category. When they succeed, as in the forceful guitar leads of "The Narrow Line," singalong melodies of "Sheltered in Sand," or clever words and country twang of "Deride and Conquer," the results are invariably both immediate and distinctive, despite their undisguised influences. Or else they have no personality to speak of, nor the energy to overcome, and hence lackluster numbers like "Empty Hands," "Monarchy Madness," and the very poor man's Thin Lizzy-sounding "Can't Seem to Shake it Off My Mind," are all impressively tight, clean, concise.and dull beyond words. Nevertheless, amid highs and lows, one eventually gets a consistent picture of what Andersson's aiming for -- he and his new bandmates may simply need a little more time to get there. ~ Eduardo Rivadavia
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