When Nicke Andersson disbanded the Hellacopters, one assumed it was so he could explore other
musical avenues, like his death metal side project Death Breath. But when
Imperial State Electric evolved out of what was originally intended to be a
solo album, it was clear the apple had fallen just a foot or two from the tree.
ISE (which also includes Datsuns bassist Dolf de Borst) utilizes the same basic
M.O. as the ‘copters – melodic,
riff-oriented songs with lots of guitar solos and a sweet spot between the
Detroit rock & roll of the MC5 and the classic arena rock of, well, pick
your own poison there. On the band’s second album Pop War, the blasting “Deride and Conquer,” “Monarchy Madness” and
“Back On Main” and the brooding “Empty
Hands” should happily induce the usual lighter waving and air guitar flailing
from longtime fans.
If there’s a difference between ISE and the ‘copters, it’s that Andersson has allowed some less
macho elements to infiltrate his hard rock – a process begun on the last couple
of ‘copters records, to be sure.
“Sheltered in the Sand” shoots for the stadium power pop of bands like Cheap
Trick and hits the mark easily. “Can’t Seem to Shake It Off My Mind” folds in
subtle Beatlesque harmonies, ending with a familiar quirky chord. The stomping “Waltz
For Vincent” adds shades of progressive rock to its knotty arrangement, while
the boogie-baked “Enough to Break Your Heart” rides out atop a dramatic string
Variety certainly wasn’t an alien concept to the Hellacopters,
and diehards likely won’t much difference on the first couple of spins. But
give Pop War time and signs of
evolution do appear, even as Andersson keeps the rock & roll faith that’s
led him this far in the first place.
Shake It Off My Mind,” “Deride and Conquer,” “Sheltered in the Sand” MICHAEL