It is a rare thing indeed for a Norwegian band to make it to the near-top of our neighbouring country’s album charts two times in a row, for there is not really much of a principle of charity over there in terms of Norwegian musical efforts. The only record to ever reach #1 was A-ha’s “Hunting high and low” (as far as we remember) and that was of course a global phenomenon. Otherwise one must concede that even entering the charts at all has been gauged a success, (barring those Norwegians who’ve settled there and which are regarded Swedish by the Swedes themselves). The story of the converse relation is old and well known; in Norway we’ve always had a special thing for Swedish music; from ancient troubadours to summer pop it’s been Swedes that have furnished us with many of our best loved tunes. Unfair perhaps, but one must not forget that Sweden is in fact a huge exporter of music; a leading role in the world market has been the rule –suffice it to mention Abba- even if this status is now looking feebler.
The anomaly to this picture then, is Turbonegro. Retox is the second album in a row from the death punkers to rise to third place, and it may still reach higher. “Party Animals” set the standard and it was the real breakthrough for the band in Sweden. For those who’re familiar with both Sweden and Turbonegro this makes sense in a way, for there is something about the latter day attitude of the band that locks with certain strands of 21st century Sweden’s take on post-postmodernism; creating this strange amalgam of disinterest and extravaganza; of contrivance and primality; of simple rock and cerebral reflection. This edifice of contradictions seems to strike a chord with the successful yet numb classes of thirty-year-olds, which Sweden, as the world’s most well-functioning society, is full of. Of course it is also full of the punks and misfits and denim cowboys that have always been Turbonegro’s core audience everywhere -the armies of the Turbojugend- but it is not these groups that make Retox a big seller; it is the other group that is now making the difference. That’s our interpretation anyway.
So it is with ambivalence that a Norwegian beholds the band’s success in Sweden: on the one hand it’s cool to be regarded cool by sweet big brother, on the other hand it feels hollow in a way; it would be nice if they could like some Norwegian music that is genuine too: contrivance is fascinating, but it doesn’t make the heart swell.
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