Eddie Lascu 6-June-2008 Sleeping in Traffic pt. 2

Yes, they did it again. I had my doubts, but they were able to pull it off. After two absolutely brilliant albums ("The Sane Day" released in 2005 and "Sleeping in Traffic: Part One" released in 2007) Beardfish comes out with a new outstanding piece of work: "Sleeping in Traffic: Part Two". This is their 4th release, after the above two albums and the debut from 2003. I can't tell whether they raised the bar even higher, but most definitely they were able to match the quality, the intensity and the richness of their previous works.

Beardfish is the most exciting new band to come from Sweden since the Tre Kronor gave us Anglagard and Anekdoten. Crystallized in the same quartet formula for the last three albums, Beardfish creates music that is a mesh of styles and genres glued together with a hefty dose of humor and craziness. Listening to their music, you will be graced by Gentle Giant atypical harmonies, you will be rolled in Zappa's outrageous humor, you will be wrapped in Deep Purple-like Hammond keys, confused by Disco tones ("ha, ha, ha, ha, staying alive!") and you will be sprinkled with a good measure of zaniness, just to remind you where these guys are coming from.

The band is powered of by the geniality of Rikard Sjöblom, this incredibly talented multi-instrumentalist, which is also the brain behind other projects like Bootcut and Cyklonmannen. Sjöblom wrote all the music and lyrics with the sole exception of "Into the Night" where he got some assistance from Robert Hansen. He plays guitar, organ, keyboards and various synthesizers. He is also the lead vocalist, his voice borrowing a bit from the dramatic Jeff Buckley.

Not necessarily a concept album in the traditional sense, SIT:2 follows the night hours in a person's day, much like part one presented the day's hours. It's no coincidence that the album starts with miniature played on piano by Sjöblom entitled "As The Sun Sets".

The things are kicked into high gear with "Into the Night" and "The Hunter", great songs featuring Sjöblom large spectrum of vocal and instrumental expression. It's hear where you get the first impression that the entire Beardfish foundation is blues, roots that are then sprang into all sorts of directions.

Fourth song is the preposterous "South of the Border" - I won't even attempt to explain you what that actually means. Zappa's dark humor and sexual connotations are all over the place on this track. Scandalous lyrics, whispered words (remember the Central Scrutinizer?), funny voices, it's all present.

Next is the instrumental "Cashflow" followed by "The Downward Spiral / Chimay", perhaps the darkest song of the bunch.

And that leads us to the heart of the album, the title track "Sleeping in Traffic" a 35 minutes magnum opus. This could be an album within an album, such is the complexity of the song and the abundance of musical ideas presented. I like to think about it as if it were Beardfish's "Supper's Ready", incidentally also recorded on the band's 4th album. To my surprise, I read in the liner notes that the band had this song in their repertoire as early as 2002. A regular feature in their live shows, "Sleeping in Traffic" became one of the crowd's favorite. However, the time to record this long track and release it on an album came only in December 2007 when the band decided to include it on SIT:2..

The album ends just like it started, with another miniature on piano by the same fabulous Sjöblom. "Sunrise Again" reviews a gorgeous theme that was the main riff on "Sunrise" the second track on Part 1. And with that the cycle is closed.

I can't remember when was the last time I was so excited about a band. These guys are incredible and I sincerely pray that their source of inspiration will not dry out. As it is the case with the majority of the bands, they hit a peak by the third or fourth album. I can only hope that Beardfish are still on an ascendant trajectory.

Rikard Sjöblom - piano, organ, keyboards, synthesizer, electric and acoustic guitar, lead vocals
David Zackrisson - electric and acoustic guitar, arp odyssey, guitar synthesizer, background vocals
Robert Hansen - bass, acoustic guitar, background vocals
Magnus Östgren - drums, percussion, background vocals

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