Sound: Out of Sweden has come one of the most melodic and infectious straightforward rock bands heard in a long time. Mando Diao doesn't use any fancy guitar shredding or screaming to adorn their songs -- they rely on good old fashioned catchy songwriting that conjures a bit of the Rolling Stones, The Strokes, and Dirty Pretty Things. In the end, though, Mando Diao still manages to keep it's own identity on the new record Ode To Ochrasy. Hailing from Borlange, Sweden, Mando Diao has been on the Swedish rock scene since the late 1990's and it's latest 14-track release is actually the third release on the EMI Sweden label. Considering the strength in songwriting, it's actually surprising that the band hasn't attracted more attention until now. The band most prominently features the vocal and guitar work of Bjorn Dixgard and Gustaf Noren, 2 musicians who have equally strong voices that shine brightest during harmonies.
There are plenty of single-worthy tracks on Ode To Ochrasy, but a few of the tracks jump out at you immediately. Tony Zoulias (Lustful Life) begins with a saloon-inspired piano (played by Mats Bjorke) that is plain fun. The song abruptly transitions into a bluesy guitar hook and eventually into an insanely catchy chorus. The song reaches a pinnacle when one of the guitarists rapidly strums and almost sounds like a mandolin at times. Thanks to the both vocalists' passionate deliveries on top of all the guitar work, the band goes beyond what a lot of garage bands are playing these days.
The introduction of TV And Me has a bit of a Beatles' feel in terms of the vocals, but because the band members also have somewhat of a chameleon aspect to them, there is soon no trace of Paul, John, George, or Ringo. At other moments in the CD, Dixgard and Noren have a bit of a dueling-vocal thing going on, with each taking a line to deliver. These little moments you aren't necessarily expecting and make Ode To Ochrasy a surprisingly satisfying listen. // 9
Lyrics: The lyrics fit quite nicely along with the music, and have clever twists thrown in along the way. The single Good Morning, Herr Horst has an intriguing title in itself, with the body of the song being fairly unique in itself. I've been walking down the street; With a tambourine on my feet; I'm holding every beat steady and low, he sings. With the addition of lines dealing with booze and pills, it might be a little predictable, but at the same time it seems to fit the song.
There are a few songs that you just seem to know you're missing out on the whole story. This fact makes for a confusing, but still intriguing song. A prime example of that is Welcome Home, Luc Robitaille. Line after line seems to convey conflicting emotions of whether or not to feel happy that Mr. Robitaille is back in town. He sings, I don't know even why I wrote this song; There's so much more to him than that paper card; Look at him crossing the line; Oh it's so hard to define the moves inside my head. While the meaning is not completely clear, it's nice to hear a song that conveys thoughts a little bit out of the ordinary. // 8
Overall Impression: The most impressive aspect to the CD is the multiple genres and styles that Mando Diao explores throughout the course of the 14 tracks. There are mellow, grooving tunes, but then in the next moments you're hearing Johnny Cash's low, spoken vocal channeled in a song like Good Morning, Herr Horst. Granted, they never tackle all-out metal, but the album has enough variety to keep it interesting.
Mando Diao does have a feel-good, bar-band feel to it's music, but at the same time that is oversimplifying it. With the addition of violins, cellos, and trumpets in some of the tracks, there is a lot more going on than the band might be given credit. There have been a lot of British bands that have done solid jobs of tackling bluesy (and memorable) garage rock, and Sweden's Mando Diao are equally impressive entrants into that genre. // 9