Saturday, September 22, 2012

WASA EXPRESS – Wasa Express (Sonet, 1977)

International relevance ***
Predominantly nstrumental

Let me get this straight: This is progg at its most unlistenable worst. Yes, it's true that they are technically driven musicians; Åke Eriksson for instance is one of Sweden's most skilled drummers. But that's all there is to it. It's all about technique. The whole point with the music is showing off. Nothing else. To further stress how incredibly competent they are, they add ”humour” to their instrumental perfection. Thing is, it's not funny. It's just silly. ”Does humour belong in music”, Frank Zappa asked, and I see no reason why it shouldn't, at least under controlled circumstances, but when it is used only as an excuse to make things more complicated than they need to be just because they can, I just say grow up, guys.

If you need an example how funny they are, take a look at the cover. Yeah, funny. Send in the clowns. Oh, they're already in.

Stylistically, we're talking fusion. There's a whole slew of jazz in there of course, some funky moves and a bit of stupid rock music. The absolutely worst example of the latter is the cover of ”Cadillac”. Why? To show how connected they are to their rock'n'roll roots when they're so far removed from anything rock'n'roll whatsoever? So it's hard to decide whether they are at their very worst when they ”jokingly” throw an old rock standard into the mix, or when they go for extreme jazz rock gymnastics. In both cases it's so dull that it takes fifteen gallons of coffee to even stay awake.

Maybe the most disgusting thing about Wasa Express is the cheesy, studio ”funk” synthesizer handled by Bo Hallgren. His keyboard runs could outdo Usain Bolt anyday in terms of rapidity. That kind of speed might be impressive in sports, but not in music. In music it's nerve grating, plain and simple.

This, their debut album, was in its original LP format of standard album length but it feels as long as a week. And remember, this is their best effort. I don't know what crime the general public had collectively committed to get punished with three further Wasa Express albums during the 70's, all of them gradually worse. As if it wasn't enough, they even reformed briefly in the mid 80's, then again in the 00's. They still perform and have released two albums with the new line-up. Have mercy on our souls.

Prior to their first album the band was called Klara Express and they made some never released recordings. They are now available for free download at Åke Eriksson's website (along with loads of other material), and although far from being any masterpieces they are at least better than what ended up on vinyl.

Eriksson was also in fusion band Egba, and later on he played the drums in Attack who scored a major hit in Sweden with the stinker ”Ooa hela natten”.

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