APA VALLEY - Apa State Mental (The Almighty Kong)
Let's be blunt: The problem with being simplistic and sticking to a formula is that you can disappear up your own arse after a while. Sweden's Apa State Mental know this only too well and deftly manage to sidestep that problem by never sitting still and, er, probing new areas.

Album Number Three finds Apa State Mental still spilling out (mostly) sub-two-minute punk rock/post-punk gems with no middle eight in sight. Less musical than The Minutemen but just as focussed, they absorb elements of surf twang, grind, hardcore, rock-pop and metal to turn out something unique.

Among their influences, Apa State Mental list The Fall and film score producer Bill Conti. That may give you a clue as to where they're coming from, but then again maybe not.

The cleverness in Apa State Mental is in their understatement. Take the lyrics of "Five Bar Blues", which opens "Apa Valley":

Woke up this morning
Had a five bar blues in my head
Woke up and went straight to bed

And that's it. Its economy makes Eddy Current Suppression Ring sound like Dylan (and Jacob Zetterholm has the same droll vocal delivery as Brendan Suppression). Only on the title track do Apa State Mental expand into what might pass for wordiness and even then, you'll be left scratching your head.

If brevity is their by-word, it also applies to the instrumentation. Guitarist Peter Mattsson spits out a solo worth bottling on the rocking "Good Idea" and snaps the door firmly shut at the song's 60-second mark.

It's not all ironic. "Woodstock '68" sounds like Union Carbide Productions and locks into a killer groove with guitar pyrotechnics exploding all over the place. "The Cramps" references the one and the same in style and name to great effect.

Is this music for people with Attention Deficit Disorder? I'll skoll to that. There was a nod to Eddy Current Suppression Ring earlier in the review and if you're a fan of them, you must hunt down this album. No risk.- The Barman



The genius of this Malmo, Sweden, band is in their artfully sly dumbness. They might want you to think they have the collective I.Q. of a Miss Universe entrant dealing with 'open other end' on both extremities of a bottle, but their brief and weirdly bent tunes (average duration: under two minutes) hide knowing smiles that only strong anti-depressants and regular cognitive therapy from highly-trained medical professionals can bring.

MIlking that metaphor to to ridiculous lengths, you could say - stylistically speaking - that Apa State Mental swing like a bipolar patient off their meds. One minute they're into hardcore punk ("Jacob's Inferno"), the next they're tearing you a new eardrum with melted mind guitar ("Neuman"), riding warped surf ("The Almighty Kong"), locking into a garage groove ("Head, "Idiot"") or referencing "Sister" era Sonic Youth ("59 Hellkittens").

This is Cracked Punk, a sub-variant almost completely of Apa State Mental's own creation. Let's explain....

I took a walk around the neighbourhood
Never came back
Eaten by hippies

...is the full lyrical content of opening track "Eaten By Hippies." In the end, it's all the lyrics the song needs, as it mines a trench of distorted guitar and a mind-blown vocal against a plodding rhythm. Clean guitar solo and then more of the same. So simple, so great.

Apa State Mental do pop as well. "Apa Nation" bounces along on cymbals, a catchy riff and a sing-song chorus. It takes a minute-anda-half. Punky pop done econo style. Apa State Mental are the Minutemen without virtuosity.

Guitarist Pete Mattson holds most of the keys to this swinging party. His persistent attack relies on chunky chording and a delay pedal to drive the songs home. Jacob Zetterholm's vocals are a little more up-front. The overall impact is less off-the-wall than the debut album but Apa State Mental's directness might make "The Reunited Heavy Metal States" a good place for the uninitiated to start.

Your hard-earned will get you 20 tracks, none of them a dud. If you're of those short-attention span fans, the songs' brevity will be the perfect formula. There's no chance for boredom.

If the Hives traded in their white suits at the door for straight jackets, this album would be the soundtrack to the Thorazine kicking in. - The Barman




APA STATE MENTAL - Apa State Mental (The Mighty Kong)
Gothenburg isn't snowed-in for 11 months of the year but I have it on good authority that it gets pretty grey and grim for long chunks of time. It's a nice place but it's no Costa Rica, meteorologically speaking. Plus, beer is expensive. So what can a poor boy do but play in a (punk) rock and roll band? Apa State Mental obviously subscribe to that view - and play their music with enough energy to melt a medium-sized glacier.

This is what the Stooges would have sounded like if they'd started in 1977 and were Swedish. Think bracing bursts of acid-tinged punk rock with slack-stringed bass and flame-thrower guitar. Throw in handclaps on the 53-second "Mocker's Mantra" and you've got yourself a "1969" party. This I like.

If you're into prog rock, look elsewhere. You have to wait until the 19th and final tune ("Shove It") to hear one that clocks in at more than three minutes. Apa State Mental are a Minutemen for the Frozen North, without the rhythmic twists and turns. It's buzzing, scuzzy guitar all the way with catchy barbed wire riffs and smart-dumb singing.

These guys play it simple (example:" "There's a whole lot of monkey going on" is the mantra - and entire lyrical content - of "Monkey") in the same way of New Zealand's Los Hories, only with a more punk edge. Anders Wieslander (bass and songwriting) and drummer Crazy Arms do the business in the engine room.

Guitarist Peter Mattson's does most of the six-stringing and is an ace player (props if that's him on "Monkey") while vocalist Jacob Zetterholm has plenty of character. Punk rock needs more character. He sounds like Dexter from The Offspring on "Shove It" playing in a band that's not lame.

Apa State Mental have a healthy liking for apes (check the label name and the chimpanzee artwork) which can only be a plus.

One of the best unknown bands I've had the pleasure to become acquainted with this year. But don't monkey around: Go introduce yourself here and ask 'em to sell you a copy.
- The Barman



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