THE DIVISION OF LAURA LEE
Is The Most Important Band Of Next Year...Stunning. In the truest sense of the word. Better yet, I'll invent a new word: Absofuckinlutelystunning. About two months ago I received an advance copy of Black City, the Epitaph Records American debut of a Swedish band with the strange name of Division Of Laura Lee. This record has had a major impact on me for the following reasons. First, it immediately had that "you are being introduced to something special" quality that resides at the heart of my lifelong love affair with rock 'n' roll, as well as reminding me of my gratitude to be allowed to spend so long as an active part of it. Second, this band challenges me in three areas simultaneously. They are: how I listen, how I approach my own creative process (as a writer and as a musician), and how I go about living my life. To put what I'm talkin' about in perspective, this is the place occupied by Fugazi's Repeater, Radiohead's The Bends, Public Enemy's It Takes A Nation Of Millions, Blood for Blood's Outlaw Anthems, and the existence of "fringe" artists from The Sonics to Joy Division to PJ Harvey or Steve Earl.This is about art that I can understand, that makes my world a more tolerable place to be uncomfortable in.
I've been at SoundCheck for three years now. That's 35 issues and 18 cover stories - but who's counting. I only mention this because this is how long I've waited to stumble across an unknown band that actually had everything in place to make a difference and climb up on this bully pulpit screaming, "I realize y'all never heard of theses guys but you need to know about 'em right now." I understand that's how some other writers were feeling the White Stripes about a year and a half ago. Well, it finally happened. But not without the cold fist-fuck of life on life's terms going right along with it.You see this brilliant band is from Vanersbuborg, Sweden, and has toured throughout Scandinavia and Europe. But, as far as American exposure, The Division has spent all of two days in The States (those being last month in NYC for a show with The Hives). That was the only opportunity we had to do an interview, and lemme tell ya' it was one for the ages. However due to the demons in either my phone, my tape recorder, or my karma, all that came back from my interview with DOLL bassist and vocalist Per Stalberg were my questions and blank space. He had vanished. Fortunately the conversation was quite memorable and I'd taken a few notes. So, here's the skinny...
First rule is: Though they are Swedes, do not confuse Division Of Laura Lee with former Epitaph/Burning Heart labelmates The Hives. This band makes The Hives look like The Knack. The Division is closer in spirit to The International Noise Conspiracy, but without the latter's concern for eye candy or irony and with way more musical depth and scope. All the members of DOLL have deep roots in Sweden's hardcore scene. Per attributes bands like Fugazi, Drive Like Jehu, old punk (Joy Division, Stooges,Velvets) and '60s soul music as his band's influences and common ground as well. He says, "It's all about the documentation of reality. Playing naked and abraded music with maximum tension and feeling." It makes my day when a quote like that actually has the music behind it to back it up.
Second rule is: This is a political band, but not in a sloganeering, global ideological way at all. It's all about personal politics.The choices we make and the way that we live. Subversion and dysfunction are born out all over Black City. Per told me that his dad died when he was 14, one of his brothers committed suicide, and his other brother's struggle with addiction has put him in jail.The rest of the band are also well acquainted with pain, frustration, disease, and desperation themselves. However, he says, "This is by no means depressive rock. This is about release redemption and some hope." Again the music bears that out. Songs like "We've Been Planning This For Years," "I Guess I'm Healed," "The Truth Is Fucked," and the title track bristle with this message. It's been my experience that life's bitterest pills contain its most valuable lessons. In Back City I feel a little less alone.
Third rule is: Screw slacker-indie type counterfeit humility. Per and his band have absolutely no time for that at all. They believe that what they do matters and play like they might suffocate if they stopped.Their music and its message is important to them and they have no problem letting the world know it. "We want to achieve something that will have value 20 years from now, not just today. We strive to make really good records and not just the same thing all over again. When we are gone we want to be one of those bands that the kids wish they had been around to have seen live." These four guys, Per Stalberg (bass, vocals, slide guitar, and e-bow), Jonas Gustavsson(vocals, guitar, keyboards and noises), Henrik Rostberg (guitar, vocals, and noise), and drummer Hakan Johansson have created something that is sinister, sensitive, brutal, ugly, beautiful, noisy, and subtle all at the same time and named it after an obscure soul singer and the stamp on a cardboard box. Then they made a record and named it for every cubicle in every city that crushes relentlessly in on the hopeless lives of quiet desperation of every temp and salaryman. That place is Black City and it is a masterpiece of a debut by Division Of Laura Lee. It will be in stores on August 27th on Epitaph Records. Plans are in the works for East Coast tour dates in early fall. Watch these pages and the obvious websites for details. With a little luck, this is the future...
By Jesse Mayer
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