Ok, let´s continue the album of the week series with one of the best efforts from the solo career of Swedish rocker deluxe Joakim Thåström. After being the driving force behind seminal acts Ebba Grön and Imperiet there was probably no way to turn than to himself after those (in Sweden at least) extremely popular and influential bands imploded. In his early solo work Thåström carried on much in the same vein as before, the music however never loosing the feeling of being born out of an excitable and singular mind.
First solo album “Thåström” (1989) had several great songs establishing him as an artist in his own right and not only a member of a band. Stand-out track “Ståaldrigstill” was in many ways a declaration of intent from this great songwriter who, just as the title says, never has been standing still but instead continued to develop his craft. Follow up “Xplodera mig 2000” (1991) showed a harder sound prefacing his later dalliance with industrial rock after moving to Amsterdam and forming Peace, Love & Pitbulls (PLP for short), a band said to have influenced Marilyn Manson amongst others. This song from his second solo album sort of leads the way towards what was to come.
The years 1992 – 97 was spent living in Amsterdam, making three albums of hard industrial rock, severely polarizing and confusing Swedish music critics. Influenced by German group Einstürzende Neubauten and Swedish death metal band Entombed, PLP were much more popular abroad than in Sweden, where they were often seen as an anomaly in the trajectory of Thåström´s career. Singing in English and doing something completely different was perhaps a way for Thåström to escape from his role as Sweden´s resident rock god for a while. That said, make no mistake, this was hard hitting stuff much deserving a listen. Bulldozer guitars, relentless beats and doomsday singing.
Upon returning to Sweden the next phase of Thåström´s solo career started, continuing to this day with a new tour and album scheduled for spring 2015. Again singing in Swedish, immensely pleasing the purists deeply suspicious of earlier detours into English.
“Det är ni som e dom konstiga det är jag som e normal” released in 1999 was a welcome return to form for Thåström, with several of his best songs and a tight, hard sound encapsulating everything that had come before, while still feeling like a new beginning. An English translation of the title would be approximately “You are the strange ones I´m the one who´s normal”, certainly a record title meant as a statement. This time backed by a band consisting of Swedish rock royalty like Chips Kiesby and Heikki Kiviaho of Sator, Henryk Lipp of Blue for Two and the fabulous Mikael Westergren of legendary bands Garbochock and Babylon Blues. A constellation creating a roaring wall of guitars behind Thåström´s passionate singing, here better than ever. Energetic and aggressive rock ´n´roll not ever losing its melodic anchor underneath all the mayhem.
I managed to see a few of the concerts from the tour following this album and remember them as loud and heavy, with Thåström in great form wrapping his thin body around the microphone stand in his inimitable way. As a bonus the tour also included a series of rare performances by brilliant Swedish pop-recluse Jakob Hellman. Come to think of it, things probably were better in the old days.
Maybe it´s the strength of the live performances following this album that makes it my favourite of his, or perhaps it´s just the quality of the songs themselves. It doesn´t really matter, but for me this is one of those records that instantly transports me back to those days, for better or worse.
Thåström´s career continued with the release of “Mannen som blev en gris” (2002), which to me was slightly less rousing and definitely darker than its predecessor while still containing several good songs. “Skebokvarnsv. 209” (2005) meant a sharp turn into a new musical direction, with mostly acoustic singer-songwriter type songs. The title being the adress in Stockholm where Thåström grew up, and the lyrics largely introspective musings on his formative years and present life. An intensely personal and reflective album unlike any other he´d made. This new musical direction continued both on 2009´s “Kärlek är för dom” and 2012´s “Beväpna dig med vingar”. If the dark blues hymn of new single “Kom med mig” (released just a few days ago) is anything to by, the new album to be released shortly might just surprise us again.