The Swedish alternative rock band, MANDO DIAO, celebrate their 20th anniversary this year and what better way could there possibly be than to release a new album? That’s exactly what they did and the new album, released on April 28th, 2023, via Playground Music, goes by the name “Boblikov’s Magical World.” The band’s pandemic outing “I Solnedgången” (2020) seems to have slipped through my radar completely but I’m sure glad this one didn’t. The thing is – this sort of feel-good indie rocking is not something you come across on a daily or even monthly basis. Also, this new outing resonates rather nicely with the alternative aesthetics of bands as diverse as THE SOUNDTRACK OF OUR LIVES and, at the other end of the spectrum, THE STONE FOXES or even the “Big Lupu”-era Finnish oddballs, 22-PISTEPIRKKO. Perhaps the new selection lacks an instant disco-indie killer of the “Dance with Somebody” sort (MANDO DIAO‘s biggest hit so far, from 2009) but, nonetheless, the new album is consistently so brilliant that you’ll want to put it on repeat after giving it a spin. Surprisingly enough, at least for an indie-rock outfit, the new album is constructed around an overarching theme – the mysterious Mr. Boblikov, who is some sort of an incarnation of the archetypal evil prankster within us all that somehow manages to screw things up.
The opener, “Wake Up,” sets things rolling with an almost ELBOW-like aura. The bassline drives the song with a deliciously groovy backbeat upon which the guitars weave a sparkling web of textures, creating a somewhat airy and at the same time earthy feel. Yeah, this is definitely one of the best tracks on the outing, so it’s good they put it first. Björn Dixgård‘s slightly raspy trademark sound is a cross between young Peter Gabriel and Caleb Followill of KINGS OF LEON. No doubt, it contributes quite a great deal to the general appeal of the music. The arrangement is rather sparse, so much so that it is almost criminal that these Swedes manage to make such a big impact with so little – then again, the songs have got just what it takes and none of the fluff.
If there is something nasty to say about the album as a whole, a couple of tracks nod rather deeply toward the aesthetics of the uptempo post-punk revivalism that was all the craze in the early 2000s – most notably “Frustration” and “Get It On” – and, quite frankly, it might not exactly be MANDO DIAO‘s best face forward. That said, on occasion, the latter does trigger peculiar T.REX vibes, which I find a little quaint. On the upside, now that I brought up the subject of revivalism, tracks such as “Animal” and “Primal Call,” for instance, tiptoe nicely between the retro-vintage sound of the blues revivalists, such as THE BLACK KEYS, and the more eclectic indie-rock acts, such as MIIKE SNOW.
Absolutely the freakiest song on the album is the one entitled “Rabadam Ching,” whatever the hell that title is supposed to mean. Maybe it’s just me but I get a strong SUN RA & HIS ARKESTRA vibe from this song! Maybe it stems from the layered vocals going “Rabadam Ching,” sounding like a bunch of occult hierophants conjuring up ancient Egyptian deities because, music-wise, these Swedes could not possibly be further from vintage jazz! Guess I’m a freak of nature because the more I listen to this album, the more I love this particular track for its unrelenting weirdness. Damn, Swedes!
Finally, the album brings this weird trip to a close with “Loner,” which could be a hidden gem from KINGS OF LEON‘s toolbox of hits, sprinkled with some fairy dust, or whatever that weird gurgling sound in the background is, that sound about which I wouldn’t wonder if it was the hook-line-and-sinker of the whole affair. It does kind of stick to your head, and not in a bad way.
So, by and large, the new MANDO DIAO offering is by far not an easy affair; the best moments are damn awesome, albeit the outing kind of lacks that one instant killer. On the other hand, albums such as this typically have a habit of growing on you over time, so we’ll see… Besides eight pretty good bangers out of ten is not too bad, is it? With subtle, almost subliminal moves, these Boblikovs sure did mess with my head for what? Just half an hour?! Yeah, that’s right. MANDO DIAO‘s new album, in spite of being a 10-track offering, clocks in at barely 28 minutes! I’m sure there must be weird ripples in the space-time continuum or something.
Written by Jani Lehtinen
- Wake Up
- Stop the Train
- Get It On
- More More More
- Primal Call
- Fire in the Hall
- Rabadam Ching
Björn Dixgård – vocals, guitars
Carl-Johan Fogelklou – bass, backing vocals
Daniel Haglund – keyboards, organ
Patrik Heikinpieti – drums, percussion
Jens Siverstedt – guitars, backing vocals