Major Parkinson - Blackbox

9 songs
47:43 minutes
***** *****


Discovered in 2006 by star producer Sylvia Massy (Tool, System Of A Down,...), Norwegian rock band Major Parkinson released their self-titled debut album to critical acclaim two years later. Two more albums followed in 2010 and 2014, and then half of the band decided to quit after a farewell live CD. For most bands, such a blow would have been devastating, but not so for Major Parkinson. In fact, they even used the opportunity to reinvent themselves. Their early material had a cabaret rock sound that reminded at times of Kaizers Orchestra, Tom Waits and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Now with only two founding members and one long-time member left, four new musicians were hired. The seven worked for two years on Blackbox, and while I had my initial difficulties getting into this cryptic piece of art, once I had unlocked its secrets, it was a truest auditory revelation.

The cabaret influences are still a major part of the bandís sound, but otherwise it has evolved in a rather unforeseen way. Where the earlier albums had a certain retro flair, Blackbox is headed straight for the future. The music comes with more electronic components, the songs are even more varied than they were in the past, and with Isabel Ė A Report To An Academy and Baseball, the band even can show up with two ten-minute epics, something that is new for their repertoire. These two long-tracks are extremely varied, showing the band from its more theatrical side, with lots of big prog rock moments but also quirky sideshow excursions that remind of the Cardiacs at their most inventive. Then there are the moodier pieces, like the opener Lover, Lower Me Down, two short pieces (Before The Helmets and Scenes From Edisonís Black Maria) and the melancholic Strawberry Suicide. A third side of the band seems to be new in that they now play downright pop songs that come with such a weird, askew angle that they feel like coming from a different time and place. While Night Hitcher reminds at times of the more atmospheric material of Faith No More, we get unashamed pop with Madeleine Crumbles which sounds like a futuristic remake of Murray Headís One Night In Bangkok, and the title track Blackbox which concludes the album in the most majestically imaginable way. The reason why their pop tracks work so well is because they hired the immensely talented Linn FrÝkedal (The Megaphonic Thrift, The Low Frequency in Stereo) to share vocals on four tracks with Major Parkinsonís lead vocalist Jon Ivar Kollbotn. While his vocals are harsh, deep and raw, hers are haunting and erotic, which makes for a really deep tension.

At times I felt reminded of the early, more progressive material of Shining, and also of a more accessible Sleeptytime Gorilla Museum, and after having spent my last days listening to Blackbox, I can say that I havenít been won over in such a way by a band since I discovered Knifeworld. It is nowadays really hard to make something new in music, but I dare say that this strange brew of retro cabaret rock with futuristic electro synth pop is a step in the right direction. This is one of the best albums of the year!

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