When Swedish band Graveyard made a bit of a breakthrough with their sophomore record Hisingen Blues in the early part of 2011, I was absolutely spellbound. I had missed their debut from 2008 but with this second record- which took them to a wider international audience- I became one of those none- more- zealous, recent converts. They had taken something incredibly familiar- blues rock-and infused it with a freshness and energy that was beguiling and bewitching. They also had an otherworldliness about them- in attitude and execution- that really set them apart from contemporaries who were dealing in very similar territory. They touched a nerve, you could say.
Lights Out, the third effort from the Swedes sees them, if not quite at a crossroads but certainly in needing to live up to the perhaps absurd expectations that the Hisingen Blues album conferred on them. So what do you do when faced with such a challenge? The easy answer is to make a carbon copy of the previous record which will garner immediate praise but-and you know where I’m going with this don’t you? – fades almost as quickly with the inevitable “it’s not quite as good as Hisingen Blues is it?” ringing in your ears. Or you could do the hard answer, the more challenging answer. Yeah, you could do what I believe Graveyard have done here which is take what they know and built on it. And how. Lights Out isn’t as good as Hisingen Blues. It’s better.
Lights Out is not as immediate as Hisingen but, over repeated listens, it reveals itself to be a much richer, more contemplative, moodier work. There is a reflectiveness in the articulation: there’s a greater level of restraint, a better sense of song structure and narrative arc that makes this a- whisper it- proper album rather than a record with a few standout tracks and some landfill tracks as supplement.
Ironically, the choice of Goliath as the lead off track could perhaps be a bit of a double edged sword for the band. It’s the closest, sonically and structurally, to anything on Hisingen Blues but as a representation of the rest of the record, it’s far from the aural and musical delights that the band invite us now to enjoy. Have a listen to the moodiness of Slow Motion Countdown or the effervescence of Endless Night and you will get a good idea of how the band have stretched and challenged themselves in a highly charged, highly positive way. Hard Times Lovin, the dark heart of this record sounds like it should be soundtracking the latest David Lynch movie such is its brilliant and uneasy construct.
There’s plenty more that I could write about this record: each time I listen to it, it reveals more nuance and more charm which, given the simplicity of the musical vehicle that this band choose, is testament to the richness of their art. Do yourselves a favour: go and buy this record, go and see them live and then try and wipe the smile off your face. Promise you: can’t be done.
Brilliant band: brilliant record.