The Sounds have always been content to do things their own way, ignoring the temptation to follow trends in the music industry. They’ve continued to plug away at post-punk revival tunes, long after that fad has come and gone. With their fifth album, Weekend, the band continues to delve deeper into the genre, shedding their new-wave trappings for a less party-ready sound than their previous effort. This is The Sounds’ most subdued record to date, and, as it turns out, it’s also one of their strongest.
The Sounds’ fourth album, Something To Die For, saw the band pulling itself in two directions: one, danceable and keyboard-driven; the other, rocking and guitar-driven. Weekend is somewhat of an attempt to reconcile those two directions, though it decides in favour of the latter. Jesper Anderberg’s keyboards have returned to the background, and Félix Rodríguez instead takes the lead with his guitars. But he’s not as blisteringly aggressive as he was on Something To Die For, which gives the keyboards some room to breathe. Now, Rodríguez is far more restrained, content to strum chords and let Maja Ivarsson’s much-improved vocals take centre stage.
Altogether, Weekend is a far more mature, focused effort than its predecessor. The band’s lyrics still aren’t particularly profound, but they’re a far cry from the childish platitudes of Living In America or Something To Die For. Title track “Weekend” ends up being a surprisingly poignant (though clichéd) ballad through its sheer simplicity, and “Great Day”‘s repeated refrain of “It’s a great day to be alive” is strangely uplifting.
But Weekend isn’t all ballads and soft songs. The band is still capable of bringing energy to their music, like in opener “Shake Shake Shake” or fuzzed-out rocker “Outlaw.” Weekend is a well-paced album, switching between mid-tempo and uptempo songs without being jarring. “Too Young to Die” is quite speedy and features a nice half-solo from Rodríguez, whereas “Animal” is a slower, bluesy rocker, but both are brimming with electricity. The band even manages to make an interesting use of a string section in “Panic,” juxtaposing it against a catchy, distorted bass line.
Overall, Weekend is a solid effort from a band that is growing comfortable with its maturity instead of trying to fight it, like it did on its previous record. Weekend won’t set the world on fire, and it’s not as fantastic as the band’s best album, Crossing the Rubicon. But it’s proof positive that The Sounds are still worth listening to, even as they stubbornly refuse to follow trends.