Once again Sweden! The musician and songwriter Christian Smedström has already left behind several bands. Before founding Christian & The 2120's, Christian was active in groups such as Full Metal Jacketz, The Awesome Machine and On Parole. The number 2120 is a nod to the record label Chess Records, which had its address at 2120 Michigan avenue in Chicago.
The directors Adam and Mark Kassen have chosen a track from the debut album "Nolo Contendere" for their film "Puncture" and the song "Evil Ways". Smedström was on tour in Germany and performed a street concert in front of the U.S. Embassy in Berlin with Thomas Pontén when he got the news.
However, Christian & The 2120's make their own best advertisement, as "Nolo Contendere" is an album of unseemly attraction. Dirty, relaxed, sweaty, playful, rough, angular and and and. What more could you ask for from a catchy offering such as this? Not much, because Smedström clearly absorbed the music of at least John Lee Hooker, R.L. Burnside and the Rolling Stones. About that, one can certainly agree with the press release. Personally, I would like to add Skip James to that list.
One can't imagine a nicer path to hell. "Gone To Hell" is one of the quieter moments on the record and in the way it's been recorded, the band is simply likeable. The piano jingles and together with the acoustic guitar, they set the theme. Smedström sings with a soft voice, almost whispering with Kristoffer Ragnstam giving restrained rhythmic beats on the skins.
The combo can play rustic rock as well. For example, the opener "What Else Is New" already opens the hearts of the listeners. Here the electric guitars are active with Joel Lundberg on his piano somewhat in the background, but when he shines, his support is just great. Out of the depths grumbles the bass in "Evil Ways", as well as slightly distorted sounding vocals from the songwriter. A nice effect, just like the excellent use of slide guitar. The skins enter! Here, just like in the first piece, the guys love to draw up the tempo and volume.
At five and a half minutes, "Pin Your Soul" is the longest track on "Nolo Contendere". Here it goes to some desolate places and the psychedelic feeling really comes to fruition. Moving towards the end, the number enters a slide-festival accompanied by spacey noises. "Freefall" is a wonderful rootsy singer/songwriter ballad, something very pleasant in the context of the other offerings. Then allow Christian & The 2120's to once again rock to the blues, Lundberg's groovy organ playing fitting in quite well here. "Bringer Of Heartache (And Such)" is one of my favorites from the disc.
"The Last Kiss" is alive with the stylish ambiance of the opener and this growing momentum found in many of the tracks, which may now be considered one of the hallmarks of the 2120's. Clearly in the blues, but also in "It Ain't Cool", typical Stones-uh-uhs are put in.
"Nolo Contendere" is a really good album with lots of slide guitar and even in this debut there is a clearly visible independent touch by front man Christian Smedström. The record can be purchased from Cactus Rock Records, established in December 2010. Their philosophy can be seen on their homepage: "Our bands and artists come from the southwestern United States, Germany and Europe. For them we undertake the exclusive mail order sales for Germany and Europe."
This album should provide suitably large sales.
Joachim 'Joe' Brookes', Rocktimes.de, Germany, 10.04.2011 and here you can read it german as well! www.rocktimes.de