Hagnesta Hill

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If the late '90s proved anything it's that there should be a new subgenre conscientiously recorded into the music books: "The Radiohead Congregation." Because sometime after said band's The Bends or even their bleaker OK Computer, an entire avalanche of copyists started to pour down for a public starved for more Thom Yorke mewling. Which is why it's easy to pick out bands like Muse or Doves or Coldplay or Kent. This was especially not a good sign for the last band on the list. After three albums going continually downhill in the melancholy factor, this Swedish band struggled for identity. At times, Hagnesta Hill is just what the band needed to halt such a problem. From the lead-off tracks -- the rousing, undulating "The King Is Dead" or the loud banging "Revolt III" -- the outright despondency the band had been beating to death seems to be a thing of the past. The production also seems to be in fine shape. "Music Non Stop," for example, takes gasping atmospherics to a level that wouldn't be out of place on Midnight Oil's Red Sails in the Sunset. Unfortunately, not soon after, the album already tends to over-stay its welcome. The middle third shows off just what made Kent plagiaristic: meandering choruses, over-wrought vocals, and too many misfires. Even some interesting counterpoints of horns in a song like "Stop Me June (Little Ego" don't save the album's redundancy. Luckily, it's the last batch of songs that surprisingly have the most impact. Not because they go for the melancholia jugular yet again but because this time it sounds affecting. The strings on "Protection" are far from the overdone Richard Ashcroft/Oasis variety and the mourning heartbeats of "Cowboys" or "Whistle Song" are brimming with dollops of hazy sweetness. That's right, none of these sound like yet another version of "Street Spirit." So as a whole, one realizes that Hagnesta Hill is a mixed bag. It's not the statement of independence that would've made Kent an original force to be reckoned with, but it's definitely a bright start.

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