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Shmat's Reviews
For more reviews, please visit Palebear which is where all future Shmat reviews will appear (as of March 2006).

The State of Samuel
Mutiny on Mercury (CD)

With happy handclaps, prominent "ba ba ba's" and boyish falsetto charm, The State of Samuel made the Shmat a happy camper from day one of listening to this new album. From his homebase of Stockholm, Sweden, Samuel crosses great continents of hook-encrusted power pop with oceans of Beach Boys inspired harmonies. He's never self-conscious or righteous in his use of the powerful tools of his trade and each song is imbued with a sense of both humour and dignity.

The lo-fi but brilliant nature of the mix reminds the Shmat of one of his favorite purveyors of primitive-pop style... Guided By Voices. But where Robert Pollard waxes faux-Britishly through a sometimes uneasy mix of his schoolteacher and beer-binging days, The State of Samuel is clearly focused on transforming melodic pop songs into roughly cut fragments of American Swedish twee. And the payoff is immediate and beautiful. The catchy "I Still Love You", with verses sung in the manner of the Apples in Stereo and choruses in the style of Pavement circa Slanted, is just the first example of the hooks this batch of songs contains. But, then, is there a NON-catchy song on here? The Shmat would be hard pressed to find one. Even the shorter slightly non-traditional songs like "Cause of Chemistry" or the 22 second "One Hour Kilowatt Commander" leave the Shmat with a sense of awe. Just how does Samuel dole out these little untamed fragments so successfully? Nothing is squandered; every mistake becomes another golden reminder of the very humanistic aspect of his music.

The Shmat's favorite song on this disc might be "Tuesdays" with it's ambling chorus of "I guess I gotta say, we get what we gave away" buttressed nicely by trumpets, slightly distorted snare drum and tambourine. Shmatness, what a catchy tune this is! The hyper-compressed vocals and droning melody line in E from "So Cold" definitely reminded the Shmat of "Queen of Cans and Jars" off of GBV's Bee Thousand. "Tripwires" is elevated to the status of mini-anthem with an unusually phrased and somewhat forboding musical round of "trip wires, trip" being sung throughout the chorus. The latter half of the closing track of "The Soul Committee" brings home the disc with the rousing chant of "And everything I ever say it never hits me, I'm a drag in the soul committee". Curious lines such as that one abound on the album, and Shmat notes that part of the allure in this work comes from the strange and sometimes esoteric subject matter such as algebra, Genghis (or Kublai?) Khan, monsters, and fortune eggs. Er, what exactly are fortune eggs... some sort of edible faberge fortune cookie?

Released on both Canada's Humblebee Records and Strings of Nashville in Sweden, Mutiny on Mercury is too good to pass up. All of you should go out and buy this album and then lie prostrate and pleased at the throne of Sweden's current ruler of lo-fi pop. For you WILL have this State of Samuel CD on repeat, make no doubt about that.

- review by SHMAT (7.28.03)        

Humblebee Recordings
10654-82 Avenue NW, Suite 323
Edmonton, AB T63 2A7 Canada

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