Subshine: Summer Shiny Pop Made Easy
A QUICK GUIDE TO NORSE POP
Long ago in a kingdom east of the sun and west of the moon, three young men ventured to London and thence onto America. They saw, they conquered and subsequently became Kings in their homeland; thus a love affair with a-ha and Norway ensued. Soon after, the merits of Fra Lippo Lippi were also observed but alas their quest stalled and it really shouldn’t have to be like that.
Synth-pop with a nose for melody and designed by Peter Saville, it was very much Back to the Future. Note the covers, Heaven (by Psychedelic Furs) and, as Subshine, Freur’s Doot Doot and Talk Talk’s Happiness is Easy which is given a neon disco sheen similar to CHVRCHES, far removed from the gloom of the original.
They could have been the new A-ha, Depeche Mode or even Bronski Beat. They delivered a near masterpiece in Pop Noir (see my writings on Tell it All and Italian Girlfriend). Norse pop hadn’t sounded so good since Scoundrel Days yet somehow fortune eluded them. Their melodies soared as their belongings were burnt to the floor, Lorraine became Black Room and eventually no more.
But wait.. there is more! All it seems was not lost, their singer Ole Gunnar Gundersen rebooted, reloaded and began his own quest this time sailing on a summer shiny cruise amid shimmering indie pop hooks. The resulting eight track album is called Easy Window with a cover owing to New Order’s Technique.
It’s been a long time coming as the first material surfaced not long after Black Room’s second long play ‘Lighthouse.’ Here’s a run through, or just for fun (for those old enough to remember Play School), let’s go through the round window…
JUMPING THROUGH AN EASY WINDOW
As the cover to the single hints, a dusky after image for this post relationship pean. Love the move from the chorus back into the verse too. ‘I had your kiss on my lips, but you never were mine, you belong to the others.’
This doesn’t so much remind me of any given song but of a time, the long hot summer of 1983, a slow sunshine drenched electro-swoon. Displaying a warm neon club feel only guided by an emotive substance. It simmers like a CHVRCHES ballad and also some of the recent John Foxx material with the Maths or Juri Hulkkonen.
Any song that begins ‘take me to the midnight city’ has got to be worth hearing hasn’t it? ‘Everything’s gone, everything is coming – it’s alright now’ and bloody hell he isn’t kidding! Trust exudes confidence and the extended outro is nothing less than a blissed out ear-gasm! One of the highlights, if not the highlight.
Remember when songs were pastoral? If you do you’ll love this one, reminiscent of Lloyd Cole’s second album Don’t Get Weird On Me Babe with a European make over – perfect for summer evenings, and not bad for early autumn either!
An intro that recalls OMD or Depeche Mode with a sixties style harpsichord melody on the chorus ‘you know that you can’t have it all.’ It’s the shortest of the songs making up Easy Window but no less pretty for it. I’d say The Velvet Underground but I could also see Saint Etienne having a go at it.
If it ain’t broke don’t fix it, it’s treading similar musical ground to Florence but when it’s this good, who cares! So long as he doesn’t overdo it and at least you can tell where it’s coming from. As the song says, nothing really matters it’ll all be over soon. By keeping things short – a tactic employed by INXS back in the day – the pieces never outstay their welcome.
A acoustic number made for contemplative moments in art films and on their subsequent soundtracks. With lyrics like… ‘it’s raining on my window and your body’s on my mind, from the time we were lovers.’
WHERE DOES IT GO
The running order of this album is very well considered and this follows on from Body to conclude things neatly. A wonky electronic intro eases into another acoustic slow build. Eighties music lovers will be delighted with the fact that he echoes English melody merchant Nick Heyward when he sings ‘Where does it go, where’s it coming from?’
HAPPINESS IS AN EASY WINDOW
Overall, this album very much comes across like the main man out on his own doing things on his own terms. There’s a steady swagger and a confident strut to its musical vocabulary especially on Florence, Trust and Easy. Taking Lloyd Cole’s cue to be cool and bathing it in a European synth wash.
That it does not include his version of the aforementioned Talk Talk track is admirable not wanting to add a cover this early on. That said with its usage of the word ‘easy’ you’d think it was a dead certainty, but no matter, Easy Window is itself with no pretences and still an improvement on Lighthouse.
By keeping the record short and sweet at an old school eight tracks, Gundersen ensures it never gets boring. Before you can say ‘Jan Bang thank you mam’ this half hour pop force is done and dusted leaving you refreshed and teetering on the repeat button.
Just out of curiosity, while researching this blog I checked out some internet lists of famous acts from Norway and neither Lorraine, Black Room or Subshine appear on any of them. From that solemn fact, we can see that a-ha are still Kings, whoever is compiling those lists needs an education and Gundersen remains criminally underrated in his homeland and we know who else lives in that camp don’t we (welcome to the Perry and Peter club Ole). In that respect you could say he’s in good company.
But this leads to other questions; why was I drawn to these artists in the first place? Was it simply the injustice of a lack of recognition or airplay? Quite possibly. The answer may be further explored in the future. For now, go check out Easy Window, damn it, go check out anything with the name Ole Gunnar Gundersen attached to it. If eighties is your bag he will definitely provide the perfect cure.
PLAYLIST AND CREDITS
Meanwhile, stay tuned with things here at Kulture Kiosk via THE ATLAS or on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram where you can see some of my photos from around the world.
The Blue Sky (from Hunting High and Low) – A-ha
Shouldn’t Have to be Like That (from Songs) – Fra Lippo Lippi
Tell it All (from Pop Noir) – Black Room
Italian Girlfriend (from Pop Noir) – Black Room
What is it That You Want (from Lighthouse) – Black Room
Francis (from Lighthouse) – Black Room
High Enough to Carry You Over (from Every Open Eye) – CHVRCHES
Your Love (from Easy Window) – Subshine
Man Enough (from Don’t Get Weird On Me Babe) – Lloyd Cole
Shadows (from Easy Window) – Subshine
Don’t Do Me Any Favours (from Analogue) – A-ha
Easy (from Easy Window) – Subshine
Nobody’s Fool (single) – Haircut 100
Where Does it Go (from Easy Window) – Subshine
Confetti (from Lorraine EP) – Lorraine
Ghosts (from The Perfect Cure) – Lorraine
A-ha and Fra Lippo Lippi my own personal photos from Barcelona.
Other album images, as always from discogs.com
New Order Technique image from wikipedia.