Monday, November 23rd, 2009

Donkeyboy – Sometimes

Norwegian 80s revivalists? Man, this ain’t gonna be divisive at all…


Alex Macpherson: Bands wearing nothing but your influences on your sleeve: I don’t give a shit about your taste.

Matt Cibula: DEFINITELY better than when they were bragging about building this city on rock and roll. But not much better.

Michaelangelo Matos: The danger of hearkening back to the ’80s is that you run the risk of reminding people of Starship. Granted, Cato Sundberg, Kent Sundberg, and Peter Michelsen aren’t as offensively strident as Mickey Thomas and Grace Slick. But that’s because they’re polite Norwegians, not because they aren’t in the same basic vocal ballpark.

Edward Okulicz: Not as transcendent as “Ambitions”, but another fine piece of retro pop, the flag of the 80s sitting proudly atop Scandinavia once more to signify complete chart coverage in Norway. And even if it’s a fine hook, it sounds dated. Or maybe that should be, even though it sounds dated, it’s a fine hook..? And another spot-on rumination in the lyrics from these non-native speakers; this time on the vagaries of love and being in love.

Renato Pagnani: This 80s pastiche is all about the chorus —- and it’s a glorious, delicate thing that bypasses everything on a collision course with your soul, making you want to jump out of your seat and kiss that person harder than you ever have. What makes it truly special is how there’s this slight resignation in the vocals of the soaring, punch-to-your-gut hook -— almost an acknowledgment that this mythic Other (to go Lacanian on you guys) that will make you whole might not actually exist, and hey, that’s okay. All Donkeyboy want is someone who “can make [them] feel alright.” That someone might not be able to make all your problems disappear, but what they can do is “shade you from the streetlight.” And sometimes that’s even better.

Chuck Eddy: Pop more squeaky-clean and whitey brighty than will ever hit in the States. Which is nothing for the States to be proud of.

Ian Mathers: “Sometimes” is not quite as interesting from an emotional or musical standpoint as “Ambitions,” but then again I’m beginning to suspect that my [9] for the earlier song was underrating it. “Sometimes” is still very very good, a stately bounce with a chorus vaguely reminiscent of Annie Lennox about needing someone “who needs somebody.” What makes it interesting is that the wish is prefigured by the hesitance of “but sometimes.” This is not just a song about feeling alone and wanting to be with someone, it’s about being the sort of person who is okay with being alone some of the time. On the one hand, you could suspect it’s a case of protesting too much, not wanting pity from others, trying not to reveal the full depth of your sorrow. But on the other, there are plenty of people out there who are perfectly happy with their single lives until they’re walking home alone and a sudden wave of longing swamps them. To paraphrase myself about their last song, I’d imagine I’m not the only mid-to-late-20s listener for whom “Sometimes” hits a bit too close to home either way.

John Seroff: Donkeyboy’s Caught In A Life is a frontloaded comet of an album that features a junkpop instant classic track 1-2-3 in the superb “Stereolife”, prior Jukebox pic “Ambitions” and “Sometimes”. The band’s magpie eye is evidenced by the host of guilty pleasure swipes at play in “Sometimes”, both obvious (new wave, 80’s sitcom theme songs, Journey) and less so (the opening guitar salvo hews surprisingly close to Akitaka Tohyama and Yu Miyake’s work on the soundtrack for Sony’s Playstation game Katamari Damacy). Everybody and their brother are dipping into the Velveeta well of half-understood nostalgia, but Donkeyboy’s best surpasses the pack by rejuvenating not just formula but feeling. “Sometimes” evokes uncritical, hormonal teenage emotion; the sort of music you’d want to play in lieu of Peter Gabriel for your very own Say Anything moment. There’s an impressive and magical sort of alchemy going on; the past has rarely sounded so much like the future.

Pete Baran: Sounds like a Starship album track from Knee Deep In The Hoopla. But without Grace Slick. Or the rubbish album cover art. Or it being the mid eighties. And Knee Deep In The Hoopla didn’t sell much anyway.

Additional Scores

Anthony Miccio: [6]
Martin Skidmore: [4]

4 Responses to “Donkeyboy – Sometimes”

  1. I love tons of ’80s pop and rock music, but this is the second consecutive Donkeyboy single we’ve considered on here that did not make think “this sounds like ’80s.” Which once again makes me wonder how ’80s it actually sounds. Also didn’t make me think Starship, even though I can hum “We Built This City” off the top of my head. None of which means those influences aren’t there, of course. Still seems curious to me, though.

  2. I too, came with the starship reference, and I can hum, like, FIVE of their songs off the top of my head!

  3. I hope no one’s gonna make me bust out my Starship cred. I own TWO copies of Freedom at Point Zero.

  4. The confluence of Starship references here is really funny. I don’t hear it myself, but I don’t know if I know a single Starship song aside from “We Built This City.”