Last weekend, witnessing the mosh pit and an attempted stage-dive at the Harvey Williams gig in Gothenburg, my mate – such a veteran of indiepop he even sang on a Sha-la-la flexi and has grown to hate most indiepop over the years because it (quite accurately, I suppose, if a little unfairly) isn’t reggae enough – turned to me in a state of bewilderment and spluttered: “This is a parallel universe.”
There is some truth in that statement, as the Swedish audiences in both Malmo and Gothenburg displayed both a reverence for and an utter joy in seeing one of the elder statesmen of the indiepop era play some old classics.
I noticed, however, a strange paradox, that while a special affection exists for “English and Scottish” (looks like the Helen Love Swedish tour will never happen, then) indiepop, great music closer to home is either overlooked or not celebrated enough.
Perhaps part of the attraction of UK indie for Swedes might be a feeling of “authenticity” and romance due to its geographical provenance; indeed, part of the attraction of indiepop in general may be that while producing some truly great music it remains an underground, marginalised movement.
Sweden seems to be turning out an ever-increasing number of superior indiepop acts and many of these bands are getting serious attention in the UK – this week (and sometimes it does seem like every week there’s a new Swedish band to rejoice over) it’s Lacrosse. I sensed, though, in Sweden a measure of if not resentment then certainly indifference towards or even ignorance of some lesser-known Swedish bands.
Two of the best pop songs of the year, Doom di Doom and Sweet Careless, can be found on The Isolation Years' latest ep, Snoose Boulevard. This is the kind of pop music that calls for public holidays and national celebrations such is its boundless brilliance.
Agent Simple, whose Shaking An Egg ep was recorded at home, sounds like I’m From Barcelona after the party’s over – numbers reduced by 90%, a dour demi-monde of leather jackets and cigarette smoke in which the greatest music in the world is the louche hook of the Mary Chain's Sometimes Always – but with just as much crazed invention. They should be held up as a shining example of everything that can be great in pop music (they claim to play, among other instruments, “pianos, maraccases, eggs, sambagobells, claves, cabasas and - of course – tambourines").
I expected that Swedes I talked to would be into this music as much as I am. That they’d prefer to listen to Glasgow’s Zoey Van Goey (and Foxtrot Vandals is a great record) for example, points as much to a notion that many indiepop fans have a tendency to look for the obscure, for the foreign, to add to the romance of the package as it does to the music from any one country being better than the other.