Though really there should be no grounds for it there was still a real surprise when approaching the new album from Norwegian band Oslo Ess. The reason for that was the unexpected pleasure of hearing the band playing high grade punk rock. In hindsight it seems silly but a Norwegian punk band just felt strange and at first a bit of a novelty. Once the sounds burst out from Verden På Nakken, Venner I Ryggen though, one is soon shown there is no gimmick involved and that the album is one thrilling and stirring slab quality punk rock in varied shades. With the exception of the new Biting Saints album, the second album from Oslo Ess is arguably one of the best punk releases this year.
Though formed in 2007 by four friends, the band did not truly become active until 2010 where upon their introduction to the world it has to be said their rise these past two years has been a storming ascent. After their second ever gig the same year, the band was booked to play the Øya Festival as an unknown and unsigned act. Twelve months later in 2011 they returned to the Fest as headliners whilst squeezing around 80 other shows in between. Last year also ended with a goal of playing Rockefeller achieved by the Oslo quintet with a sold out show. During this time there was also the small matter of their debut album which appeared in 2010. Since its release Uleste Bøker og Utgåtte Sko has been showered with acclaim and exposure, award nominations, and airplay of its tracks, all adding to their swiftly growing popularity. Already the first single Caroline from the new album has been a constant on Norwegian national radio over the past six months and as the world wakes up to the band, their stock is sure to only ascend higher and higher.
Produced by Oslo Ess and Bjarte Lund Rolland and released via Indie Recordings, Uleste Bøker og Utgåtte SkoVerden På Nakken, Venner I Ryggen instantly fires up the senses with opener Kakerlakkene (Cockroaches), a riotous ball of energy and infectious heart. Far too brief for the pleasure it brings, the track bounces with an enthusiasm and hunger to excite and rifle the ear with pure insatiable punk passion. Does it offer anything particularly new…not really but if you want to know whether it ignites the heart…it is a massive and resounding yes.
The album is delivered in the native tongue of Åsmund Lande (vocals, guitar), Peter Larsson (guitar), Knut-Oscar Nymo (bass), Einar Stenseng (Keyboards), and Mads Golden (drums), but that simply adds to the texture of the energy and strength of the songs, though it is a little frustrating trying to join in on what are predominantly irresistible strikes of catchy anthemic contagion.
God Morgen (Good Morning) backs up the impressive start with its melodic punk prowess, its guitars scything sonic trails across the expressive keys and vocal harmonies. The rhythms of drums and bass too leave nothing but mighty and inventive impressions especially in tracks like Bislett Stadion, a rock n roll brew of incisive guitar play and explosive heart.
The ska punk driven Fritt Fram (Free-Up) emerges as one big favourite, its care free swagger a heated tease upon the ear which surely no one could turn away from. Another song where once you finally have your tongue around part of the infectious chorus the song has moved on two tracks… have the band no compassion for us untalented linguists?
The likes of the aforementioned single Caroline and Gaselle i Tigerstaden (Gazelle In Tiger Town) bring a blues and soulful breath to their well lit presences to further the captivating diversity across the album, whilst songs like Ut av det Blå (Out Of The Blue) and Är du som Jag? (Are You Like Jag) respectively add a rock and power pop tone to the release.
Ending on the intense punk intensity of a NOFX with Tøffe Gutter (Tough Guys) and the Celtic punk spiced Over Stokk, Over Stein (Over sticks and stones), the album is one glorious feast of punk music at its best. If the likes of Flogging Molly, Bad Religion, The Transplants, and Capdown tweak your pleasures than Oslo Ess and Verden På Nakken, Venner I Ryggen are simply must not be ignored treats.
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