“Crossing the Rubicon” the latest offering from Swedish synth-pop quintet The Sounds, borrows its name from a phrase meaning “to pass a point of no return.” Historically, it refers to the act of war Julius Caesar committed by crossing the Rubicon River in Northern Italy in 49 B.C.
So it would be perfectly understandable to wonder if the band is exploring new sonic territory on their latest offering, which hits shelves June 2. What’s ironic, though, given this context, is that the strongest moments on “Crossing the Rubicon” “" and there are many “" emerge when the band sticks to the winning formula it honed on 2006’s “Dying to Say This to You” “" danceable guitar riffs and synthesizers on top of upbeat rhythms.
“Crossing the Rubicon” starts on a high note, with the infectious, guitar-heavy first single “No One Sleeps When I’m Awake” and continues with a handful of equally catchy tunes, including the New Wave-y “4 Songs and a Fight” and delightfully bizarre Blondie homage “Beatbox.”
Unfortunately though, the 12-song offering loses some of its steam in‚ its final third, with the later songs failing to reach the extremely high bar set by the first ones. The title track, which sounds like gothic monks singing over an excerpt from a dramatic movie score, marks the middle point, and its placement is jarring to say the least “" especially since it’s book-ended by the accessible “Midnight Sun” and “Underground.”
Original Signal Recordings
June 2, 2009
The Sounds will spend much of the summer on the road, having landed the opening slot on several dates of No Doubt’s reunion tour. Like the headliner, they are anchored by a powerful frontwoman “" sassy singer Maja Ivarsson, whose vocals range from pained to empowered “" backed by male supporting musicians who tend to stay in the background.
Their position on the No Doubt tour, combined with the band’s decision to stream “Crossing the Rubicon” in its entirety nearly a week before its official release date, indicate the band is trying to expand its American fanbase. Their radio-friendly pop is likely to win over some early-arriving audience members.