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Kristofer Aström & Hidden Truck | Northern Blues (Startracks/V2 Records)
When not protesting angrily with excellent punk rockers Fireside, Kristofer Aström regularly takes time out to wear his emotions on his sleeve - this time over 10 countryfied tunes, bristling with charm and melody, and - as importantly - angry words, bitterness, lost pride, and, towards the end of the album, redemption, insight, and trust. The lyrics are more often than not seemingly naïve and direct: "I'm not the first to sleep beside you in this bed / It's poisoned with some other idiotic guy's smell / And even though you tell me that your love for him is dead / I always keep preparing to go through all lover's hell." Not as much bad poetry, really, as painfully detailing honesty, supported by Aström's whispered vocals and his piano-led arrangements, not unlike much of Bill Callahan's usually engaging output. The soaring How Can You Live With Yourself, with its gospel-ish chorus of "I hope you'll burn in hell" is at times hilarious, although thankfully never stupid or simply parodic - there's more sarcasm than jokey humour to be found here. The desperate dependency of love is the object of much of Aström's anger and resentment here, exemplified in tracks such as the stunning You Don't Know How Good You Are, and the paranoid Connected ("Maybe everything was wrong / You're a dreamer / You're in every dream"). The music is allowed room to breathe, to move and to glide, and the instruments seem to search their way through the melodies, much like the lyrics slowly and accurately explore the details of a relationship over the course of the album. In that respect there is certainly a Mark Hollis-like quality to the way the songs use silence and space as an integral part of their structure, and Aström succeeds in making a whisper count, and in letting "I miss you always being around" sound like a revelatory insight - an amazing feat in itself.
CWAS #9 - Winter 2002