"Why do we let morons rule the world? Why do we let morons do the damage that they do? Why do we let morons rule the world? Because I'm a moron, too. And so, my friend, are you." So opens Freak Kitchen's ninth studio album on the aptly titled track 'Morons'. Brings to mind Althusser's concept of interpellation in how people are duped and controlled by ideological means, whereby one set of principles are presented and claimed as facts and "truths" at the expense of masking other facts and truths. Couldn't be more politically or socially relevant right now. Are they saying we're as culpable as the morons in charge? Does it explain how that clown with an over-elaborate comb-over, the wannabe fascist Trump, came to be US president? Maybe. However, I don't want to descend into that kind of debate here... this is all about the music, but the opener sets the tone for 'Confusion to the Enemy', which, aside from its highly accomplished, groove-driven nature, raises some very pertinent questions.
Overcoming smart phone addiction seems to be what's addressed in the very next track, 'Alone With My Phone', which cunningly incorporates mobile interference as part of the song's aesthetic. Other tracks follow suit to varying degrees, and some just seem to be plain wacky. However it never feels preachingly didactic. The insurgent social commentaries and critiques are there to engage with if you so wish. As is the music, which is pretty damn great...
With press blurb stating that Freak Kitchen have influences that range from "Slayer to Dean Martin, Kiss to Mahavishnu Orchestra, Frank Zappa to Indian Carnatic music", you know you're in for a diverse ride. But, the album's not as diverse as you might believe from that list. I have to admit that when this arrived for review, it marks my very first experience of the band's music. I've been aware of these Swedes for a long time but, for some reason, have never got around to checking them out (shame on me... their debut album was released twenty four years ago... so there's been plenty of time!). I've previously heard about their musical diversity and sonic derangement, so it was most certainly a surprise upon listening to 'Confusion to the Enemy' and discovering it's not as musically idiosyncratic or as left field as I was expecting. The sonic derangement is actually quite refined and restrained when compared to the likes of Diablo Swing Orchestra, Solefald or Arcturus. Think more Gnô, the French trio featuring the virtuosic fretboard talents of Christophe Godin. In fact, 'Så Kan Det Gå När Inte Haspen Är' is a little Gnô-esque.
The trio of musicians that constitute Freak Kitchen - guitarist/vocalist Mattias ‘IA’ Eklundh, bassist/vocalist Christer Hysén, and drummer Björn Fryklund - are all masterful players. But they never let their virtuosity dictate or dominate the songs. It's certainly a fine balance they've attained between the technical and the art. And it's all about the grooves. That's what binds everything together so coherently - almost like their reins on the constantly threatened diversity and battiness that never fully materialises. And, I have to say, there are some fantastic grooves that run through the sonic veins of just about every track here.
All in all, then, 'Confusion to the Enemy' is not as wildly experimental or as diverse as I was expecting. That said, it has enough innovative creativity to satisfy those who revel in the delights of something a little different, but without diving headfirst into anything overtly avant-garde. No, avant-garde this is not; it has too many accessible handles. And grooves! Did I mention the grooves? It's all about the grooves, my friend.
CONFUSION TO THE ENEMY
Review by Mark Holmes
21st Sept 2018
2) Alone With My Phone
3) Så Kan Det Gå När Inte Haspen Är
5) Confusion to the Enemy
6) Push Through
7) Only a Dream
9) By the Weeping Willow
10) The Era of Anxiety
11) We Will Not Stand Down
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"...it's all about the grooves. That's what binds everything together so coherently - almost like their reins on the constantly threatened diversity and battiness that never fully materialises."