Small Town Talk – the review
Well, what can be said about this album. The sleeve is nice with a shot of Per, in a Stetson in front of a DeSoto, taken by Anton Corbijn in Nashville last year.
13 songs, of which all but one have been released before in some version. Out of the 13 eight are from the combo En vacker natt/dag, one is a Roxette song, two are demos and the last is from the World Ping Pong championships. Rudy & Me was abruptly removed from En vacker dag. (And doesn’t it sound suspiciously a lot like “Fish in a Bowl”?) What is new is that all the songs are now in English, some with lyrics by Per and some written by Sharon Vaughn. Sharon has used Per’s original lyrics as a starting point. Per sings “Small Town Talk” together with one of his old heroes, Nick Lowe, he of course sings “Far Too Close” with Savannah Church, “Rudy & Me” with Jessica S and Helena is on most of the rest. “Being With You,” “Hold On My Heart” and “No One Makes it On Her Own” were recorded in Sweden in January, in conjunction with recording the English vocals.
Kai: I couldn’t relate to this album at first listen. Now after a night and a day of giving it a try I think I got the mood of it but not the meaning, really. While both En vacker natt and En vacker dag are not among my favourite albums, I had hoped that now with the English recap it might get a bit more radio-friendly but wouldn’t really know what kind of radio station here in Europe would play such songs. Don’t get me wrong, they are laid-back and certainly perfect for easy listening, I just cannot pick a favourite here. There’s nothing that gets stuck in my mind this time. I certainly appreciate the efforts put into making this album, all the artists Per worked with, I just think it lacks uniqueness, maybe it was one album too much of the similar kind. You tell me. Another question I have is: Per has always pointed out that these three most recent albums of his (I still consider them a unit) had been written with the tragical loss of three of his family members in mind but apart from the sleeve design where are the references to it in the music and the lyrics? Am I too ignorant?
Thomas: I’m not really a fan of this album. I don’t have much to add, all the songs but a select few are from the last two Swedish albums. There are a few gems, but all in all it’s way too mellow for me. The best tracks are “Far Too Close” and “Small Town Talk.” And while “Name You Beautiful” is a catchy little ditty, it doesn’t fit the format. Linnea has been replaced by Helena, Lasse by Nick. The title song is nice, like I mentioned, cuter than its Swedish counterpart and Nick’s voice works really well with Per’s. But like Kai says, there are no singles to work with here. I wonder who the target audience for this album is?
Colin: I’ve been looking forward to this album as someone who doesn’t really understand Swedish. I adore Per’s songwriting but sometimes some of the magic is lost in production. I guess that’s why I always go back to the demos because they feel the most raw and seem to capture the most energy and emotion (Ahh, those 80s demos when they still used drum computers…). This album sets a very mellow mood indeed but for some reason adding the traditionals and slowing down the tempo doesn’t do it for me. Take for example “Hold On My Heart”. It was originally released by the Dutch group K-otic, who made into an energetic, uptempo pop song. Fun fact: one of K-otic’s leader singers has become a country singer, this would’ve been a perfect change for a duet with Rachel. Still, the essence of the songs remain and the melodies are beautiful but it’s missing power. Then again, look at Per’s other current project, MonoMind’s song “Lalalove”. It has Per and Helena singing on the track together and for reason the energy is there. One track on the album is difficult for me to listen to. “No One Makes It On Her Own” is, for me personally at least, a song very closely connected to Marie. It’s such a powerful song on Charm School and this new version just doesn’t do it justice. On the other hand, I’ve only heard the album twice now so these are my first impressions. It might grow on me when it turns cold outside. Ask me again in January.
Paul: First things first, I enjoy 95 % of Per’s solo material. I am a huge fan and probably always will be. However, this album doesn’t sit well for me. I can’t put my finger on what isn’t right this time as it has the usual ingredients – Per’s vocals, nice melodies etc. Maybe it’s because we’ve heard these songs before? Or maybe it’s the country sound? Or the lyric translations? The lyrics that were translated into English by Sharon are nice enough but do not sound like Per lyrics. Favourite songs on the album are “The Finest Prize” (although, who is Jim?) and “Far Too Close”. “No One Makes It On Her Own” should have stayed on Charm School. I think it’s time to leave all the old songs behind as you can tell that “Being With You” and “Hold On My Heart” were written for Roxette when they are on the same tracklist as “It Came Too Fast” for example – there is a different style to the song writing which means the album doesn’t flow well. It will be interesting to see which songs make it to the tour playlist.
1 – There’s A Place (Min plats)
2 – The Finest Prize (Första pris)
3 – Small Town Talk (Småstadsprat) (feat. Nick Lowe)
4 – Simple Sound (Tittar på dej när du dansar)
5 – Far Too Close (From En vacker natt)
6 – Hold On My Heart (Old demo)
7 – No One Makes It On Her Own (From Charm School)
8 – Being With You (Old demo)
9 – It Came Too Fast (Det gick så fort)
10 – Name You Beautiful (The ping pong song)
11 – For the First Time (Känns som första gången)
12 – One of These Days (En vacker dag)
13 – Rudy & Me (Half a Fish in a Bowl)