Nordic groove masters, Eskobar, are a band that isn’t afraid to wear their influences on their sleeve – their debt to the Madchester era, The Stone Roses, Britpop and all things baggy is stated up front and without dissembling. But, as their string of emphatically groove-driven releases over this year has shown, they are no blind imitators nor is their music a pastiche of a genre. Eskobar are inarguably a retro band that has modernised and rejuvenated a style and delivered their own unique version.
The title of the album refers to the fact that Eskobar – huge in Sweden and around since 1996 – have come out of a hiatus. Chapter 2 is the next stage for this resilient and talented band – one that has been kickstarted by a series of immense singles that are loud, brash and stuffed full of attitude and swagger. Its release is heralded by another single release – the seventh this year – ‘Light Up In Love’. This is a more restrained track but nevertheless just as bubbling and effervescent as the rest of the material. Singer Daniel Bellqvist’s talent over the seven releases stretches to his direction of the kinetic videos that have accompanied the releases – pure rock videos that capture the dynamism and energy of the band.
Seven singles and everyone a killer.
The album blasts open with ‘When Your Heroes Fall’, Eskobar’s first single this year in their new phase and one which I have previously reviewed as an epic dream pop/psych-infused indie gem. It drives along with the speed of a runaway train, it evokes a sense of incessant movement, windows down in a car, the breeze in your face. And, importantly, it has the necessary dose of swagger and bravado necessary to pull it off with style. According to the band, the song tackles the disappointment in idols and the remembrance and appreciation of past greatness.
The accompanying video has all the psychedelic trappings and attitude you could desire:
Next track ‘Roller Coaster‘ provides little respite: it has all the insouciant swagger you could want from an indie rock band – jangling guitars, thumping rhythms and the cool, louche front man in Bellqvist who channels a nordic Stone Roses’s Ian Brown in his trancy dancing. And it has what we can expect from this band: an ear for melody and celestial choruses.
‘Behind the Sun’ – another single released this year – delivering crunchy guitars over a thumping rhythm section and Bellqvist’s cool delivery and celestial, expansive, rousing choruses.
In ‘Hey Sister’ (you guessed – another single release) Frederik Zäll’s guitars are chiming and buzzing and the rhythm section is pounding with intent. Lyrically, the song deals with a darker theme – it was inspired by a friend of Bellqvist’s that went through the UK justice system while dealing with mental health issues.
‘Living in the Sky’ is stylistic, anthemic and has a little more of a electro-dub dance-floor vibe. Eskobar’s finely tuned ear for sing-along melodies and rock ‘n’roll attitude is as sublime and cathartic as ever:
‘Nobody Higher, No One Above’ veers ever so subtly into a more muted psychedelic sound, the hallmarks of Eskobar’s inherent skills at crafting damned good pop melodies are clear and upfront with the anthemic choruses and the inherent danceability. Swirling guitars, muted vocals and the usual thundering rhythm section are here, but also a sense of positivity and euphoria.
It’s not until we reach the final three tracks we meet unreleased material – ‘Keep Marching On’, ‘Coming Home’ and ‘Stato Mind’ and it is so welcome and rather extraordinary that there is no reduction in quality. Each are warm and enveloping, melodic and authentic.
‘Chapter 2’ is a triumph of great music brilliantly expressed and has a rare and indefinable quality. Above all, it is cathartic fun that has managed to sustain its audiences through the bleak months of 2020 with a rock’n’roll genetic code that mixes familiarity with innovation. It is indeed a panacea for the times. You can stream it through the link below: