Spirit On Parole
The First Time
By: Eric G.
Cobolt may feature members of the defunct Swedish band the Refused, but these sprawling, melancholic tracks are a far cry from the Refused’s bracing assault. Clean, intricate and jangly guitars weave around loose rhythms and ghostly keyboards to dramatic effect on this follow up to Eleven Story Soul. Vocalist Magnus Bjorklund avoids former bandmate Dennis Lyxsen’s manic screech in favor of a strained and vulnerable inflection. Cobolt utilizes a dynamic that blends lethargic tempos with subtle but effective changes.
The mood is deliberately downbeat on Spirit On Parole, but it doesn’t feel forced or unnatural at all. Bjorklund’s timid vocal style is not as off-putting as you might think. He sings in a nasal and whining tone that begs for sympathy but manages to evoke a certain charm despite its ostentation. Cobolt sounds like a more organic version of Nowhere-era Ride, particularly the way Bjorklund accents his syllables, but the music in no way resembles Ride’s layered wash of sound, instead it ebbs and flows majestically.
The sleeping giant seems to wake up on “Great American Lies”, but the band never busts out of its plodding tempo, which is, perhaps, a deliberate attempt to distance itself from the Refused’s abrasive image. “Sad Songs Of Love” adds a country-tinged riff to an otherwise tame ballad. All of these songs are ballads of sorts- couched in dark arpeggios and labored histrionics, but Cobolt pulls it off well. The comparisons to Slint and Codeine are lazy- this music is far more accomplished and dynamic.
Spirit On Parole’s one-sided emotional spectrum is stifling at first. As a whole, this album is overwhelmingly maudlin, but, taken in spurts, the songs ring out beautifully. Cobolt clearly has the formula for angst-ridden ballads down pat, mixing unconventional indie rock with singer-songwriter cliches. The result is solid and engrossing, if you’re in the mood. Personally, I prefer the energy and raucous abandon of what I’ve heard from the Refused, but this will kill a dreary night just as well.