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Hanna Hirsch - Tala Svart

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Artist: Hanna Hirsch

Album: Tala Svart

Label: Release The Bats

Review date: Feb. 4, 2009

Stockholm five-piece Hanna Hirsch makes revved-up power pop that’s nonetheless melancholy. Tempos stay at the outer edge of toe-tapablity, and there are enough minor chords here to suggest it’s not all teenage glee. But like their psychedelic compatriots Dungen, Hanna Hirsch sing in Swedish, so I have no idea what they’re saying. It’s quite the departure (or lack there of) for a contemporary Scandinavian pop group, which generally tend go in all the way and sing in English.

The native tongue still tickles these ears. The template Hanna Hirsch sticks to doesn’t allow for big surprises, but they do keep flipping between rip-it-up verses and tear-it-up refrains (as in, cries of frustration). I’m guessing the lyrics are potent little portraits of disappointment. Their obvious point of reference is the Buzzcocks, who liked a lot of angst alongside the longing. They remind me even more of the Wedding Present, where the observations are more wry and the longing more ambivalent. When singer Siri is belting her hardest, it’s still a sweet howl. Like Gedge from the Weddos, she seems pleased to be engaged in emotional drama. It’s a bad moment in life, but good fodder for a song, a chance to re-live a lost argument when fully in control of the situation.

She could be singing about something else, of course. What are the odds, though? The assassination of Olof Palme? The odds are slim. These rickety rhythms long ago became signifiers of heartbreak. Towards the end of the record, they kick off a few songs with an electric piano that spent most of the record pushing the fray in the background. It’s nearly hidden on the first few listens, ‘cuz this sort of rock is all about guitar, a fast snare and romantic quips. The other bits (the keyboards, the sha-la-las) are decoration, ingredients that can take a song back to 1977 Stiff, 1986 Rough Trade or 1995 Merge.

When the Hanna Hirschers first heard the kind of music they play, did they quickly backtrack to the earliest stuff, like the Feelies or the Modern Lovers? Did they comprehend the irony between the wimpy outlook and vehement beat? Or was it some subsequent Swedish descendant that really moved them, who translated all that heartache for them. If it was an American band, I wonder how much of the English they understood. I don’t really want to know the answer – I like how this hits me blind. I hope they’re like the proverbial ugly American who thinks if a tourist can’t understand something, they just need to say it again, louder.

By Ben Donnelly

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