Stockholm band the Plastic Pals are connoisseurs of the edgiest sounds to emerge from 60s American psychedelia, 70s powerpop and 80s punk. Frontman Håkan “Hawk” Soold sings in English and writes sharp, sardonic, spot-on lyrics in a very individualistic vernacular. The cover image of their new ep It Could Be So Easy, Free and Fine – streaming at Bandcamp – nails their sensibility, a municipal worker on a bridge struggling with a chain while a shiny expanse of skyscrapers looms ahead.
They open with their signature song, Plastic Pal, a scorching mashup of Radio Birdman, the Buzzcocks and the Clash. In two minutes eighteen seconds, they let you know they want no part of any New Abnormal:
I’ve got a brain the size of a planet
And they have me parking cars
I’m cruising through the universe
For some money in my tip jar
Artificial intelligence sex dolls
And self-driving cars
I need a better option
Than stumbling home from the bars
They completely flip the script with the second track, If Love Should Call, a slow, pastoral Velvets-inspired nocturne with a subtle revolutionary message:
You say life is like a circus
Well here you are, there’s the ring
Do you comply with the terms of service?
You fly like a butterfly but how do you sting?
The layers of jangly, lingering guitars – that’s Soold and Anders Sahlin – are exquisite.
With a completely different twin-guitar attack, Hangin´in the Louvre is a slashingly cynical, backbeat-driven minor-key anthem, its secret agent man waiting for the museum to close so the team can pull off the heist.
They close the album with More Than an Icon,, bassist Bengt Alm and drummer Olov Öqvist driving the new wave pulse:
Like Elvis, you left the building, you just took your cross and split
This planet wasn’t big enough for you
Palm branches at your feet, the future was already writ
A classic case of too much too soon
Along with Karla Rose‘s ep from earlier this year, this is one of the best short albums of 2020.