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Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Arkeology: Day Three

Day Three:

State Of The Ark (2004/05)

Jettisoning some of the bombast of In Lust We Trust, the band went for a more streamlined, electronic edge with their third album. It was a sonic revelation. This is the band's party album, but this is the Ark we're talking about, so lyrical depth and experimentation was in no short supply. Even with an added focus on beat (including some African influences), the band managed their second straight masterpiece. It was also the first time I had the pleasure of seeing them live (in Gothenburg the spring of 2006).

Debuted at #12 (after less than a week of sales, climbed to #1 the following week)
25 weeks in the top 60

State Of The Ark by theark

1. This Piece Of Poetry Is Meant To Do Harm
Opens the album with an electronic, T-Rex-style glam thomp and some orchestral flourishes thrown in for good measure. This is an incredibly clever, funny track with one of the most addictive melodies on the album. 10/10
2. Rock City Wankers
Ola rails against self-obsessed and self-destructive rockers, a theme he would later revisit on the band's fifth album. This track's got some of my favorite lyrics on the album, but beyond that, the funky-beyond-belief guitar riff makes this a career standout. 10/10
3. Clamour For Glamour
Single #2
Chart Peak: 10
Weeks on Chart: 23

The band had made clear their adoration of glam rock prior to this, but if there was any doubt, this propulsive, call-to-arms party track makes their ambitions very clear. It was a long-lasting hit in Sweden, and rightfully so. It's immediately catchy and simple to the point of being silly. But that's the fun of it. 10/10
4. One Of Us Is Gonna Die Young
Single #1
Chart Peak: 4
Weeks on Chart: 18

The best "carpe diem" song ever written. At turns raucous, inspiring and bittersweet, this may not be the flashiest song in the band's catalog, but it's one of their very best (if not the best). The drum work alone gives me chills. But it's the lyrics and Ola's delivery that seal the deal. It's a guaranteed pick-me-up, grappling with death in the most uplifting way possible. (note: the band also released a subtly remixed version--basically, more drums on the chorus--for the U.S. market, along with a new video) 10/10
5. Let Me Down Gently
A dramatic 80's synth rock ballad, the the surging nature of the production (especially in the chorus) has more in common with a dance track than the slower, more pensive ballads of the band's past. Would've made a great single. 10/10
6. Hey Kwanongoma!
When I very first heard this track about six years ago, I wasn't crazy about it Over the years, I've come full-circle. I love the African influences (and wish the band would have played around with this style even more) and the lyrics, fictional or not, certainly hark back to Ola's much-documented, delightfully oddball childhood. 10/10
7. The Others
Another of the band's many olive branches to counterculture. This encompasses a lot, and acts as a rallying cry to anyone who's ever felt different. Whereas It Takes A Fool... (from 2000) took a gentler, more poignant track, this is in-your-face and loud, painting a picture of a sort of sexual revolution (part two, I suppose). It's a nice counterpoint, and a great show of confidence from the band. 10/10
8. Girl You're Gonna Get 'Em (Real Soon)
Riffing on the Knack's My Sharona, the band augments the punchy groove and builds a thrilling dance rock song around it. It's one of my favorites on the second part of the album and truly a lost single. A simple, straightforward pop song done to perfection. 10/10
9. Deliver Us From Free Will
An inventive blend of disco, rock and musical theater, this is the only non-single that will be included on their greatest hits collection, and for good reason. It's such a huge pop song. The fact that the band can afford to put something this amazing towards the end of an album shows just how consistently brilliant they are. 10/10
10. No End
A gentle, falsetto-led ballad with some really sweet, romanticized lyrics. It works perfectly as an (almost) album closer. Not nearly as flashy as the rest of the tracks here, but attention-grabbing in its own way. 10/10
11. Trust Is Shareware
Single #3
Chart Peak: n/a
Weeks on Chart: n/a

A last-minute digital single in a slightly remixed (and in this case, better) form, this is a solid album track and an intriguingly odd (but apt) metaphor for trust, but it baffled me then and baffles me now as a single choice. It's still getting perfect marks, but there were so many better potential singles on this album. 10/10
ALBUM: 10/10


Get It Right (B-side to One Of Us...)
Like Hey Kwanongoma, this was the band taking cue from African music and creating something very special. It wouldn't quite have fit in with the album, but on its own its a real achievement. A spare, haunting melody's built around a huge, repetitive chant. I can't think of many artists that craft music like this, but if they're out there I would love to hear them because this sort of hybrid is really special. 10/10

Get It Right by theark

Stay Real / Look Sweet (b-side to Clamour For Glamour)
The band's most Scissor Sisters-esque moment. This flirts with the dance side of their dance rock more than any other track they've recorded. It's an interesting record, and well-worth its b-side status, but it doesn't feel as inventive as most of their stuff. 9/10

Stay Real Looks Sweat by theark

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Anonymous ArkArmy said...

This album will always have a special place in my heart. It was the first time we saw the band live in Los Angeles play those songs and Ola wore his cool black leather jacket and hat.

I sometimes still skip forward when Hey Kwanongoma! comes on but other times I sing along to it and quite like it.

Also, I probably don't need to tell you what song inspired my username.

11:50 PM  
Blogger alesta said...

Probably their best.

5:34 AM  
Blogger Nick said...

It's certainly the album that cemented my love for them. I always go back and forth between this one and the last one as far as being their best work.

11:12 PM  

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