Review: SMPJ Take on Devo and OMD

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When Sista mannen på jorden (EN: The Last Man on Earth) released “Stadens alla ljus” (EN: “All the City Lights”), back in April, we were pretty excited. After concentrating on his Page project with Marina Schiptjenko for two albums, Eddie Bengtsson was returning to the science-fiction themes and spaced-out synths of SMPJ with real style. The two-track CD single showcased Bengtsson’s incomparable songwriting, melodic instinct and fearless vocals. We called it “a pulsating trip to the dancefloor, swept along by dream-like pads and bubbling filters.”

SMPJ have just doubled the fun by releasing “Stadens alla ljus” as a 12″ maxi-single with a new mix – on blue vinyl. To the CD’s B-side, “Vem gör det då” (EN: “Who Does It Then”), have been added two cover tracks: a stomping version of “Going Under” by Devo; and “Står kvar” (EN: “Staying”), a magnificant reworking of OMD’s “Stanlow.” The original version of “Going Under” appeared on Devo’s New Traditionalists album in 1981, and it receives a respectful reworking in Bengtsson’s hands. It’s still an up-tempo, quirky song with a rapid-fire lyric, and it’s a great revival of a classic sound.

The real revelation, however, is “Står kvar,” in which the OMD original acquires new layers of complexity. Bengtsson’s vocal style is very different from that of Andy McCluskey, and his adaptation of the song about an oil refinery near the River Mersey is tailored to fit. The post-industrial alienation of OMD’s track fused the beat of diesel pumps with dark pads and a vocal that drew out the parallel between the chimneys of the refinery and the spires of churches: the industrial site a source of care and cold-heartedness in the same breathe. Fuelled by the synthetic charge of 12th House’s Svein Welde, SMPJ’s version gets to the pulsating point rather more quickly, trading in some of the mournfulness and ambiguity of the original for a rhythmically solid presentation. It is a stunning rendition that lacks none of the emotional power of OMD’s effort after being transported to Sweden’s Baltic coast from the banks of the Mersey.

The maxi-single can be ordered from Synth4You.

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