Tracy Bonham, The Perishers and Aqualung: Rock Sandwich Supreme!
Sara Swinson
9/11/2005 9:31:37 PM

The next big thing to hit the States since the Swedish meatball is rolling among us! From the land that gifted us with saunas, smorgasbords, Ingmar Bergman, clogs, ABBA and hygienically-challenged trolls... comes the inordinately listenable music of The Perishers. As Alfred Nobel, of Nobel Peace Prize fame might say, "The Perishers are dynamite!" (Nobel invented dynamite in 1866. He was Swedish, now he's just dead).

On September 7th The Perishers played Blueberry Hill's, Duck Room. Sandwiched between Tracy Bonham and Aqualung, The Perishers provided the tasty meat in the middle.

But first a word about Tracy Bonham, who surprisingly opened the show, given her more than ten-year career: Tracy Bonham’s voice expresses a depth that ranges from slow growl to accelerated siren, to chiming bell. John Darling accompanied her on guitar meanwhile Bonham alternately plucked the violin, stroked the piano and strummed guitar doing some of the great tracks from her most recent third album, Blink the Brightest [Zoe Records].

When she shared her first ever love song, aptly entitled, "Eyes," her voice spiraled down, then soared up like a bird. Fans accompanied her on these emotional plunges of fathomless plummeting into treacherous but irresistible emotional waters. But then there was also the glimmer of life above the clouds; always breathtaking to catch these views.

Bonham sang like she was falling off a cliff; like she had unwittingly tripped over a ledge, but then inadvertently caught an air pocket and was effortlessly lifted back up to the edge again. Just like love, eh?

Tracy chatted freely between songs. She sang a fierce version of her once Top Ten hit, "Mother, Mother." The words curled out of her mouth like fire from her lungs, "... I'm hungry... I'm dirty... I'm bleeding to death..." and then it all flickered into innocuous smoky puffs with the addition of Bonham's entertaining commentary. In this particular case of song-chat, Tracy disclosed that her actual mother is really in fact, a sweet June Cleaver-like individual-- who recently broke her ankle chasing a wasp. She's in a wheelchair now, she'll be fine. (Why was she chasing the wasp? Shouldn't she have been running from the wasp?)

Bonham closed her set, saving the best for last when she presented a truly beautiful but haunted thing called, "Something Beautiful," dedicated to her nephew.

At the other end of the show was Aqualung—with building musical epiphanies and a winsome, whispery lead singer, Aqualung's occasionally jazzy, always moody music reminded not just a few people of Radiohead. In these days of Coldplay, Keane, and many other bands that prove keyboards can rock, Aqualung can rock with the best of them.

Lead singer, Matt Hales, from Southampton, England, was the delightful host, never tiring of his company as his performance carried on well past midnight for a working crowd. And most of them held in there because it was worth it.

Hales told tales of his infant son, and joked about being pegged only as a pianist. Proving the stereotype wrong he stepped away from the bench and took center stage with a guitar for the middle half of the show where the fragile melodies suddenly began to rush with energy.

Okay, back to The Perishers: about six months ago, they opened for Sarah McLachlan in Kansas City [See our review:]. St. Louis received them with equal joy last Wednesday at the Duck Room in Blueberry Hill.

Hailing from Umeå, Sweden-- the group claims its muse flourishes in cold, dark, environs. Umeå, although a long wintered region, proves the perfect pod for producing perfectly, depressing pop, according to The Perishers. The Perishers presented their offerings-- beautiful summer-less sadnesses.

The Perisher's melancholy indie rock endears rather than alienates; comforts rather than bums out; empowers more than it enables. In fact, it's catchy to a crazy degree; it's feel-good in a manic way. When lead vocalist/guitarist, Ola Klüft sweetly sings, "One may think we're alright/ But we need pills to sleep at night/ We need lies to make it through the day/ We're not ok ..." listeners can't help but actually feel okay. The lyrical content may be depressing, but its effect is completely glee-inspiring; so much so that even the stiffest of congregants find their feet fidgeting to the toe-tap-able tunes. It's like someone telling you, "You're not okay, I'm not okay," but then it is completely okay because as they're telling you this, they're gently moving the hair out of your eyes and kissing your forehead. It's like that. This music made everyone happy; including the girls in the bathroom after the set, who loudly proclaimed their appreciation of Ola's lanky good looks.

Ola Klüft sings with the sensitivity of a Lutheran choir boy. His voice has the character and quiet beauty of snow falling; it doesn’t blindly dazzle like the noonday sun, but there's little chance of anyone neglecting the magic of it.

The band closed with their title track, the arousing, mopey, "Let There be Morning"-- a hymn of hope to the dying; a song that could probably seduce a smile from most close-to postmortem people; a truly gorgeous vesper; a tuneful sonnet dedicated to the terminal... and who among us isn't terminal? Ingmar Bergman would be proud--if he wasn’t dead.

The Perishers are: Ola Klüft - vocals, guitar, Martin Gustafson - keyboards, backing vocals, Pehr Åström - bass and Thomas Hedlund - drums.

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