Welfare Problems

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"I guess you wanna see the look on my face when you smash it," Randy mouthpiece Stefan Granberg sneers on "A Man in Uniform." The Modern Lovers/Ramones-style singalong is only one of the high points on the Swedish quartet's seventh full-length, Welfare Problems, an album that finds Randy's ideology undiluted by the addition of buzzing guitar hooks and shoutable choruses to its punk rock roots. Together with drummer Fredrik Granberg, guitarist Johan Brandstrom, and bassist Johan Gustafsson, Granberg pogos his way through a set establishing Randy as another band from the land of the midnight sun that gleefully soaks its garage-y punk with influences as disparate as 1950s rock (the barroom piano of "Cheap Thrills," the scrappy Eddie Cochran bitching of the title track) and sugary 1970s arena anthems (the fabulous "X-Ray Thrills" hits up the chorus of Cheap Trick and intersects it with "Oi! Oi! Oi!"'s and cooing female backing vocals). This all builds some extremely entertaining platforms for Randy's staunchly socialist stumping. On the album opener, "Dirty Tracks," the band lays out its plan for a government-center takeover that'll be accompanied by the sound of ringing guitars. While kids throw bricks and burn tires, Granberg re-imagines Roger Daltrey's classic celebration of youth as a political rallying cry. "I hope I'm dead before I'm old," he screams. "Honey, you and I have been bought and sold."

While its 12 songs go by pretty fast, and some glimpses into the past aren't as successful as others ("Ruff Stuff"'s channeling of Johnny Rotten is a little trite), producer Pelle Gunnerfeldt (International Noise Conspiracy, the Hives) accentuates each song with touches of fuzz and a perfect mix of lead and supporting vocals. The dubbed crowd noise in "My Heart, My Enemy" is a particularly nice touch, giving its chorus a plaintive feel that's a relief from the band's normal hard-driving sneer. But if you think this latter track is setting up a feel-good ending to Welfare Problems, think again. After a whispered intro, the album-closing "Dirty and Cheap" peels out of a dark alley with sparks flying and guns blaring. "I'm f*cking pissed man," Granberg begins, and proceeds to tear off another hunk of authority's flesh over the din of his band. Randy may want the kids to rise up, but the band knows that shouting and dancing come first.

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