Title: Chimes At Midnight
Genre: Alternative Rock / Dark Country / Folk
Release Date: 28th January 2022
Label: Madrugada Music / Warner Music Norway
MADRUGADA are Norwegian and they are very popular in Norway, having won a few Norwegian Grammys. Formed in 1993 they garnered cult status in their native land along with Germany and especially Greece. The Brits haven’t really taken to them but hey ho, you can’t please everyone! Anyway, they released their debut long player, ‘Industrial Silence’, in 1999 to critical acclaim before following that up two years later with ‘The Nightly Disease’. 2005 saw the release of a live album called ‘Live At Tralfamadore’. This was inspired by the writings of Kurt Vonnegut, the album becoming the highest selling album in Norway that year. For around two years the band members focused on side projects before they all got back together in 2007 to produce their final album before the death of guitarist Robert Buras, which they self-titled. After that they broke up, until 2018 when the band reformed. ‘Chimes Of Midnight’ is the fruit of that reformation. I’ve never heard of this band before and this album is my first taste of that fruit, so without further phaffing about, I shall dive right in. See you on the other side…
From the get go the vibe of this album is reflective and confessional, the opening track exclaims “No one loves you more than I do!” which sounds a bit presumptuous. Maybe there are people out there who could trump that if they got the chance to know me? There’s nothing really new going on here that breaks new ground or infuses this genre with new found oomph. But this does have that mark of “done well” and “crafted”. It lolls and lists from one track to the next and it reminds me of sitting on a wooden swing chair on a porch at sunset, cold beer in my hand and a spliff in the other as I stare out across the lawn towards a setting sun that mirrors my reverie, the orange light mesmerising my pupils as it seeps into my already intoxicated brain. The drum slapping brush technique helps this feeling along.
‘Help Yourself To me’ vocalises like Nick Cave but without the cavernousness. The sentimentality doesn’t really gel with me but the music as a background is pleasing. Next up is another ear please that sways from side to side ‘Stabat mater’. If Kenny Rogers or Kris Kristofferson rocks your boat then ‘Slowly Turns The Wheel’ will capsize it and half drown you. “Imagination, what a way to live your life” is the lyric that opens ‘Imagination’. I can hear the fire crackling, but there’s no fire here, I’m using my imagination. The overall effect of this one is soporific pleasantness. The gist of this is about using imagination to always be with someone you love, who has not done that?
Anyway, this goes on for around an hour with the same lilting, lolling, glass eyed country stylings. After about half an hour the feelings I had at the beginning started to wear off. I listen intently before tuning out. I feel like I’m driving down a motorway at 3am and dozing off at the wheel only to jolt away sharply as I’m about to smash into the back of a truck. And that, dear read, has happened in real life. ‘Empire Blue’ then smacks my head like my passenger, bringing me back to full alertness. There’s a distinct MAMAS AND PAPAS vibe going on when the next track starts, the first few bars have me exclaiming “MONDAYYYYY MONDAYYYYYYYY...” Whoops, it’s not that but it bloody well sounds like it. This doesn’t have Mama Cass and Michelle Phillips helping out with harmonies though.
A Chris Isaac vibe innervates the penultimate track. Sivert Høyem sings to a love interest, reminiscences abound before the lyric changes to a different target, as if offering instruction. The sustained wail at the end is very much like Chris Isaac. Well, it’s alright I suppose, in summation. It’s 12 songs over 58 minutes that’s musically easy on the ear, no straining to hear the lyrics for the most part. It vacillates between “the sitting on the porch with beer” vibe I mentioned earlier to the mawkish expression of feelings that straddles that line between me doing an impression of a cat pulling that face after coughing up a fur ball and then onto the expression you do when someone mixes a cocktail just right.
01. Nobody Loves You Like I Do
02. Running From The Love Of Your Life
03. Help Yourself To Me
04. Stabat Mater
05. Slowly Turn The Wheel
07. Dreams At Midnight
08. Call My Name
09. Empire Blues
10. You Promise To Wait For Me
11. The World Could be Falling Down
Sivert Høyem – Vocals
Frode Jacobsen – Bass
Jon Lauvland Pettersen – Drums
Christer Knutsen – Guitar / Keyboards (Live)
Total: 7.5 / 10