It’s not often you feel an affinity for a band before actually hearing them, but in the instance of Stockholm’s Red Sleeping Beauty, their name alone is enough to pique interest from anyone with a predilection for ‘80s Marxist indie band McCarthy. Named after the band’s infallible single from 1986, sonically – they’re surprisingly disparate, unless you delve into the band’s earlier recordings, but McCarthy’s influence can be heard in their melodic impulses, and a tendency to create pop songs with lyrical substance.
After forming in 1989, Red Sleeping Beauty went on to release two albums, EPs and numerous singles on classic pop labels around the world while becoming contemporaries with many English counterparts on Sarah Records. As legendary as they are obscure, it’s a typical theme within indie pop: celebrated by fans the world over, but all too often overlooked by the press.
Unfortunately, if you listen to ‘Kristina’ outside the context of the band’s history, it’d be easy to understand why. Despite there not being much of a shift musically since their last release nearly 20 years ago - except for a heightened emotional resonance catalysed by the ill health of founding member Kristina Borg – the band’s first album in 19 years is a plodding, frustratingly agreeable affair that’s desperately in need of some chaos, drama - anything to give it more nuance and colour.
It’s not without its charms, however, and the sentiment is admirable: the title being a tribute to Borg, the contents of which is appropriately heartfelt without being dour in the process. All the band’s usual hallmarks are present correct here: old drum machines, vintage synthesisers, and affecting melodies. Their retro approach to electronica does run the risk of sounding outdated, however – the sporadic, synthetic drum beats and primitive – almost child-like – synth interjections often sound like a more rudimentary version of New Order – which, arguably, sounds like a pleasing quality on paper - but one that will sound too outmoded for most.
It’s the interplay between Kristina Borg’s and Niklas Angergård’s vocals that’s one of few prevailing qualities on ‘Kristina’, as Borg adds a familiar warmth to Angergård’s soft yet prominent refrains. ‘Kristina’s sentimentalism forgoes seriousness in favour of something a little more playful: ‘Don’t Give Up’ is uplifting despite its deep, underlying sadness. It’s not devoid of occasional lyrical wit, either: “I think I’m funny, but do you think I’m funny looking?”, sings Angergård on joyous closer ‘I Am The Artist’. Ultimately, though, a bit more vibrancy and discord is left seriously wanting.
Words: Hayley Scott
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