“En händig man” – the review
Per’s back with a new album and – once again – we were eager to gather some of our staff around our virtual roundtable to listen to his new album and share our thoughts.
"En Händig Man" is Per’s seventh solo album if you count "Son of a Plumber" (which he nowadays claims was sort of a solo album, but as "no one can pronounce Per Gessle abroad"… you know). So what do we get this time?!? We get a ton of "sha la la's" and Per whistling! Per has also used horns a lot for once.
"En Händig Man" is – like "Mazarin," Gyllene Tider’s "Finn 5 Fel!," "Son of a Plumber" and most recently Roxette’s two new tracks "One Wish" and "Reveal" – recorded in The Aerosol Grey Machine down in the heart of Skåne. It is also recorded with (mainly) the same band and the same producers. Does it sound the same? Well, yes… and no. You can definitely hear the C&C (Christopher and Clarence) sound on this album, but it has evolved. We like what we hear, even though it is very far from the Per Gessle power-pop that most of us usually love (and miss). This album is sometimes very similar to "Mazarin" and also very similar to the Plumber album. We can even hear touches of "Finn 5 fel!" on it. But enough of this rambling introduction, let's get down to reviewing the tracks!
Colin: On this new album I hear many familiar things but also some completely new sounds. There’s a bit of SOAP, Mazarin, GT, more sixties/seventies, but also some new Gessle sound I can’t really define yet. A bit more raw, edgier, live-ier. This album goes from heavy rock tunes to beautifully smooth ballads – Per Gessle has outdone himself – Again!
The first track of the album is "En händig man" – also the first single. Like we mentioned before, this track was at first recorded using strings and horns, but as that version strayed too far from Per’s vision, they re-recorded the track at the end of the sessions. This version is how Per envisioned it. Thomas: I like it, a typical nice mid-tempo Per track that should do very well on the charts in Sweden. And you do understand what Per talks about, don't you…? Colin: Well, frankly I don’t, since I still haven’t mastered Swedish yet. Awesome song though. It really gets stuck in your head after a while. Since I first heard the song, it hasn’t gotten out of my head for at least a week – lots of credit for that! The songs sounds really smooth and relaxed – a perfect song for a sunny (Sunday?) afternoon!
Thomas: The next track starts with what Per calls a "killer organ intro" and it is. It sounds The Doors all the way. "Pratar med min müsli (Hur det än verkar)" isn't even mentioned in the song, but a nice track it is, very up tempo and frisky. Per says this guy is having a conversation with his breakfast cereal about this girl he wants. He feels they have a future together even though they are total opposites. Colin: Well, his breakfast has a beautiful female voice! The percussion makes me think of a marching band, but the organ and melody kick ass!
Thomas: This one is one of my very favorites of the album - "Jag skulle vilja tänka en underbar tanke," a mid tempo track that just hits my heart. Great lyrics and a melody that just is right. This can be one of those live songs that goes on and on and on with lighters and sing-a-long forever. I want to see that happen! Five stars for this one! Colin: I keep singing this now and then (when I’m not humming EHM), it tends to relax me a bit I think. I’ll bring a lighter to Stockholm this summer! Judith: This is a soft, cute song which stays in your mind!
"Fru Nordin" is probably about Per's wife Åsa, but we'll probably never know for sure. He mentions in the liner notes that "most people think this is about my wife. That's nice I guess!" Thomas: This song I like every other listen, when I like it I think of the '60s, I think Roxette's "Soul Deep" which has a similar beat. This one is very energetic and noisy. Colin: I don’t agree on the every other listen – this song is really powerful. Per’s voice is kind of distorted and the guitars are pretty loud – I like! Judith: One of my favorites on the album. I love guitars, I love noise, I love distortion!
Thomas: "Dixy" is another favorite of mine, this is possibly how dixieland sounds to Swedes I would guess. Like Per says in the liner notes "we thought a clarinet would sound nice, a touch of dixie which we knew absolutery nada about…" Christoffer plays the clarinet and it's the second time in his life he's even touching the instrument. Colin: Wow, a clarinet in a Gessle song – that must be a first! Nice song. Sha-la-la-la-la-la…Thomas: This was written and recorded more or less on the spot in the studio.
This next track is about one of Per's first loves, a very early love. "När Karolina kom." Thomas: Karolina seems to have been a neighbor of Per's in the late '60s! The song is so-so, I do like it, but it's at the bottom of the favorites list, usually. Although the chorus is rather cute when you know that Per means a 7-year old girl (or something to that effect). Colin: The intro of the song reminds me of another (not sure which), but the overall melody makes me very happy. Thomas: Hmmm, you are on to something there.
Hanna is back, Hanna from "Henry, dansa inte disco" and "En händig man." Here she should shoot Per with her love arrow in "Hannas kärlekspil." Another '60s flirt, an up tempo track. Colin: Oh yeah, bring on the old sixties uptempo! GT meets the Beach Boys - clap your hands everyone! (oh and by the way, "Henry, dansa inte disco" is still a kick ass song!) Thomas: Lots of saxophones in the background here, this track also has a wild drum beat. Not at all bad, but not on my top 5 either. This track concludes the A side of the LP, by the way. It will be really interesting to hear the vinyl edition as that album will be mastered differently!
Thomas: Here we go! This song, "Om du kommer ihåg," is one of my top 3 songs. A mid tempo number that, in my opinion, is reminiscent of "Tycker om när du tar på mej" mixed with some "På promenad genom stan." Very lovely song, and also one of Per's favorites. The lyrics are obviously about Woody… Colin: Acoustic, very smooth. Helena provides the necessary background atmosphere…sounds like dreaming away. Thomas: And like Per said, his fingerpicking is out of this world! Judith: One of Per's best lyrics ever to me. Simple, direct, touching.
For you Rox fans out there, here's the never recorded Roxette song - "Om jag vetat då (Vad jag vet nu)." Thomas: This is my third favorite of the album. One will never know how the Roxette version would have sounded, but I can't imagine it would have been bad. To me this is Per at his best. And contrary to what Per thinks, I think this would've sounded fabulously on "Finn 5 fel!." It's a mid tempo song with an amazing 12-string playing around all the time. Also a wonderful post(?)-chorus. Top notch and single material maybe? Colin: Yes, it’s really a beautiful song, strings & chimes and all. Very powerful chorus, a beautiful duet – Gessle at his best! One of my favorites on this album for sure. Definitely in my top 3 as well, only maybe at second place. Beautiful song, perfectly performed – even better than it would have been with Roxette I think. Judith: My absolute favorite, indeed Gessle at his best! I too think it would have been a great Roxette song.
"TomTom" was written a tad too late to be included on "Mazarin." TomTom is also a character that Per wants to write a full album about. So far he has only this one. Thomas: What can I say about "TomTom"? I like it, but I don't think it'll be a favorite of mine. The lyrics are playful. Someone here suggested there are too many "emergency rhymes" in it. I see the point, but it doesn't bother me. Another mid-tempo track. The album consists of five up-tempo songs, six mid-tempo ones and three ballads, by the way. Not counting the EP of course. Colin: TomTom, Blabla. Unplugged-like song, really relaxing – feels like driving from Halmstad to Tylösand on a sunny Sunday afternoon. The intro is really nice, one of my favorites on the album.
Now this is possibly a reason why Per calls this album a "bluesier cousin of 'Mazarin.'" Thomas: "Våldsamt stillsamt" is my second favorite up tempo track, and on this one I do get a Blues Brothers light feeling, ha ha! Lots of energetic drums, Hammond organ and saxophones. Very Gyllene Tider, but with a twist. "This is how I sound when I put on my dark skinned mask! Ha ha ha!" Per exclaims in the booklet. Colin: Hey! Are the Lonely Boys back in Swedish? In any case they stole an organ player from the sixties! Oh yeah, and some cow bells as well…
Thomas: "Trött" is my other favorite up tempo number. Fast, heavy Gyllene Tider sound. One can almost see Micke Syd play this one. And in the second verse you get a gorgeous angelic background choir! You gotta love that! Per mentioned that it's always hard to not overdub too much, but I have to say that this album is anything but over-produced. Great track! "May be very cool live" Per comments. Colin: Pure Gessle rock, pretty heavy. Trött? Don’t think so when you can perform this!
Colin: Shalalala - need I say more? Thomas: "Samma gamla vanliga visa" is a title Per has been wanting to use for a long while now. Nice track, another "sha-la-la-la" song. There are surely plenty of them on this album. "The idea was to write a summer song without muscles but with a spark in the eye." He has succeeded once again. (Colin is lost in the shalalala's here.)
Finally we get a ballad as the end of the album and side B of the LP. Thomas: "Min hälsning" is from 1978 and was written for Gyllene Tider's debut album but was shelved due to the need of other material for that album. For the biography about Per he was asked to find material that had that "vintage" look to be photographed and when he found this demo he realized that he still liked this song a lot, so he re-wrote two corny lines in the song and they recorded it live in the studio, two acoustic guitars and one electric. They overdubbed a bass guitar and an organ. Voila. And like I mentioned in my interview with Per, this song really sounds like Per Gessle 1978. A good ending of the regular album. Colin: A very old GT song – beautiful in its purity. I’m very happy it survived the years!
For those who want more, there's the deluxe edition, a digipak with "En händig EP" included. The EP consists of four tracks that in no way are "third rate left overs" according to Per. And they aren't. The first track out is "Hon vill sväva över ängarna" and is another Gyllene Tider sounding up tempo song with a great bass line. I like this also every second time I hear it! A nice opener for the EP.
Thomas: We continue with "Signal" which I truly love the verse and bass line of, but I don't really go nuts over the chorus. Still not a bad track, mind you. This production just hits me as so much ABBA! Colin: This one is different from all other songs by Per I’ve heard. It’s smooth, has a nice bass line – definitely among my favorites en surely should become a single? Judith: Another favorite, somehow I like this '80:s flair, with the background keyboards. I could listen to this more than once in a row. What an amazing chorus!!
Thomas: "Solen kom från ingenstans" is the vocal version of "Vet du vad jag egentligen vill?" from the single "En händig man," and it's just lovely. From the beginning it was the ending song of the album, but then they happened to record "Min hälsning" and that was it for this track. Per still wanted to use it so the EP idea came about. Colin: Again Per manages to pack a lot of emotion in this song (although I don’t understand the lyrics, mind you). Thomas: Yes I agree totally, lots of emotion in this song. Still, it's not ending the EP, the only track not recorded in Skåne is. "Du kommer så nära (du blir alldeles suddig)" was recorded in studio T&A with Per and MP Persson. Colin: OK, I guess this is just typically me, but of course the one song recorded in T&A is again my favorite. All acoustic guitars and an organ humming in the background. I really do love this song, it’s so perfect in its simplicity. So much power and emotion in his voice. I wonder when do we get to see an album fully recorded in T&A? Thomas: Beats me, but a beautiful song it is.
Thomas: To conclude this review I have to say that this album is very nice, but maybe not as nice as "Mazarin." Or should I say "Mazarin" had more edges, while this album is more like "Son of a Plumber," more homogenous. This album doesn't have a "Spegelboll" for instance. This doesn't make the album worse, but it makes it "plainer," if you get my point. It doesn't beat Plumber, but I do love this album though.
Colin: I think with this album Per has evolved in his music once again. I like it a lot more than "Mazarin," but it’s hard to compare with "SOAP." The perfect album at the perfect time – could "SOAP 2" be even better than this?
Judith: The album is nice and pleasant to listen to, but I miss The World According to Gessle-days. I miss the power guitars, I miss those small hidden details Per used to delight us with. Still, it will be nice to lay under the sun this summer with the album blasting in my MP3-player. Hats off to Per's voice.
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June 13th, 2007
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This article was posted here on TDR in these categories:
Archive, TDR:Exclusive, TDR:Per Gessle, TDR:Releases, vintage.