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Apr 13

Sahara Hotnights: “Mind over Matter”

Sahara Hotnights -- Kiss & Tell

This cover would make a great subject for a Sesame Street “One of these things is not like the others…” segment.

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One of the nice side-effects of writing this blog is that I’m reminded that I hadn’t noticed new releases by groups I had followed for a while, and such is the case with Sahara Hotnights. I was really into their first couple of albums, but over the past few years they’d managed to be pushed aside as other albums came along to gain my attention. So when I had the thought to include them on Reselect, I came to the pleasant realization that they’ve released a couple of albums when I was looking the other way. Cool! More (potentially) great music!

And I do look forward to hearing it because the albums I enjoyed so much, 2001’s Jennie Bomb and 2004’s Kiss & Tell, were such great blasts of punk-inspired power pop. Hailing from Sweden, they are very much influenced by the same bands — the Ramones, Blondie, the Runaways and Joan Jett, among others — that the Donnas were influenced by, with somewhat similar, but no less exciting, results. You could think of Sahara Hotnights as the Swedish Donnas, but that would be unfair — they were more contemporaries of the Donnas who ended up at a similar place based on their influences, rather than copycats. They’re clearly too good at what they do to have just picked it up second-hand.

Kiss & Tell was a polished album, yet full of punkish energy with a sharp edge, and one of the best showcases for the Sahara Hotnights sound is “Mind over Matter.” It’s an intentionally bratty plaint of youthful boredom. After a great solo section late in the song that sounds for all the world like a blend of guitar and toy piano, lead singer Maria Andersson sings:

Oh baby we’re bored and bad luck is coming our way
Now that we know what’s to come
Who’s gonna keep us awake?

Those lines are followed by a snarled, “Huh?,” knowing full well that no answer is going to come from elsewhere — it’s going to have to come from within, hence “mind over matter.” It mines the familiar territory of generational discontent that has been well-trod throughout the punk and postpunk years — no, I take that back, since the beginning of rock ‘n’ roll itself, à la Eddie Cochrane’s “Summertime Blues” — but Sahara Hotnights put their own stamp on it and make it sound fresh and energetic. That’s one sure way to beat boredom, at any rate.

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