Say Psych: Album Review: The Janitors – 15 Years of Fuzz and Folköl

15 years ago, a night of heavy drinking resulted in the formation of The Janitors – a creative project that has been the centre of founding members Jonas and Henrik’s lives ever since. Over that time five drummers, eight percussionists and three bass players have passed through The Janitors grinder. This has ultimately resulted in three LPs, five EPs and a handful of singles, as well as a live schedule that has seen them share the stage with many great bands who they’ve loved.

Gathered on 15 Years of Fuzz and Folköl is a collection of songs and sounds that reflect the different phases of The Janitors development, ranging from full on Fuzz and Feedback to Gospel Choirs and back to the dark menacing head swirling throb that The Janitors have made their own sound. Folköl incidentally, is a very Swedish thing we’re told. You can’t buy proper beer in the stores, only low alcohol versions and these are called folköl or “people’s beer”. That beer has gone on to fuel most of the tunes on this compilation.

The Janitors cherry picked 23 songs for the digital download that have never been released on any of their previous releases then did with the chief Cardinal over at Cardinal Fuzz and the head Cloud at Little Cloud Records in nailing down the nine tracks that went on to the vinyl release. After dusting themselves down, they wondered how these tracks had ever fallen through the cracks and as a result this may just become your favourite Janitors release so far.

Opening with ‘Stumble’ it doesn’t take long for us to recognise the characteristic vocal style of Jonas, but something is a little different; there is no slow build up that we have become accustomed to and an atonal guitar sound dominates. From this we move into ‘Firefly’, a pacey number with a catchy beat that grabs hold quickly and doesn’t let up. It’s a foot tapper with an easy countenance that impresses. ‘In Love with the Riot (Feedback)’ hints more towards what we know and love of them, with lashings of fuzz and distortion and vocals pushed to the back of the sound it’s almost as if this was a precursor of things to come, a way of experimenting with sound to see what they could achieve. ‘I See It Now’ is about as much of a ballad as you’ll ever get from The Janitors, that being said they do it in style and it shows yet another side to this polymorphic entity. ‘Oh Lord’ has more than a hint of Spacemen 3 about it in both lyrical content and musical style; a very wide transgression from what we’re used to.

‘Epileptic City’ could easily have come on any of their albums and it’s a testament to the quality of the songs on those albums that it didn’t make it. With a motorik drum beat that steers the tracks, layers of reverb and smatterings of fuzz all over the place, it’s a heady mixture that intoxicates from the off. ‘City’ is as far removed as you can get from its predecessor, with extended organ notes and hazy vocals, once more channelling Jason Pierce vibes, maybe more Spiritualized this time; who’d have thought they had this in them? Could they have been the finest shoegaze band that never was…? ‘Black Electric’ features Al Lover and is possibly the catchiest track on the album with a bit of everything mentioned previously and something else that’s hard to place yet makes you just want to close your eyes and drift away to another place. Concluding ‘Aside (Outside)’ proposes an almost Eastern, tribal vibe with echoing vocals creating a chant that ends the collection in such a unique way that only The Janitors could get away with it.

The beauty of an offering like this is that there is no pretence with it, it’s a compilation of weirdness that was created through beer and compiled with love. If you can find any other offering less contrived released this year, I’d be astonished.

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