STAGMAN – Kejsarens Nya Kläder

This is the third release by Bo “Zinny Zan” Stagman under his real name and since I have reviewed his last two solo-offerings with an accompanying foreword, there’s not much history left to contribute with, so if anyone has missed out on anything, go to the links below and read those. What can be said of this release is that for someone like me, a dude who has had issues with Swedish lyrics for all my life and despite of that was completely floored by Stagman’s previous records, is that it comes with enormous, to the point of it being unjust, expectations. Stagman’s previous releases are more or less an open front-door to his life, opinions and beliefs where total honesty rules without even the slightest trace of bullshit. Combine that with amazingly good songs that aims for both the heart and the gut, great musicians and a killer production, my issues with the Swedish lyrics disappeared faster than last month’s salary.

What is slightly different with this album is the lyrical content. Where on the last records, Stagman was telling stories of his past and speaking truthfully of his inner feelings, this one is more politically direct – at least on some tracks and agree with him or not, he never holds back one inch. Stagman is pissed off and he tells us so. But I’ll get into that more when the songs are being, in search of a better word, analyzed. Maybe talked about is a better word. Opener “En Mil I Mina Skor” (One Mile In My Shoes – yes, I know that there’s a difference between Swedish and English miles, I just can’t be arsed with that translation here) kicks into gear with a riff reminiscent of The Knack’s “My Sharona” mixed with Iggy Pop’s “Real Wild Child”. It’s an uptempo pop-rocker that holds a pumping rhythm, a big groove and a striking main melody with a belonging refrain that oozes catchiness a long way. For us Swedes, Magnus Uggla is another reference here but all in all, this is a feelgood rocker with a chunky live feel and a great deal of hit-potential. An amazing opener.

The politically aggressive “Ser Ni Eldarna” (Do You See The Fires) is a kick in the nuts at the Swedish government. Stagman is mad as hell and he lets us know why. Without taking sides, he conveys his opinions at what he thinks is a lame and mawkish leadership. You can agree with him or not, but musically, this a stompy pop-rocker with a direct groove, quite straight-forward and in-your-face with hooks everywhere. It holds a somewhat darker atmosphere, even dystopian at times but still, there’s no escaping the massive refrain that hits like a ton of bricks. An amazing tune. No matter what your native tongue is, this song will stick even if you understand squat of what he’s singing about.

“Inga Sånger Kvar I Mitt Jukeboxhjärta” (No Songs Left In My Jukebox Heart) takes on a sullen ambience with big keyboard riffs that meets guitar dito half-way and marries absolutely brilliantly right in the mix. In a mid-pace, on a pop-rock groove where the rhythm is both punchy and tough, the song holds some resemblance to Swedish rocker Thåström’s earlier solo material. It’s a raw, earthy and organic track within a big soundscape – and a million-bucks refrain. I was floored by hello! “Tar Vad Vi kan Få” (Take What We Can Get) is a slow and dark pop-laden ballad with a heartfelt and even saddening melody arrangement but also rhythmically distinct. It’s melancholic and even a bit gloomy but it also holds a monster of a refrain that without being the least slick still probably would sound great on the radio. Fantastic!

The title-track, The Emperor’s New Clothes in English, is one big punch in the gut to the Swedish government and especially our prime minister, to whom the tune is dedicated. Again, without taking sides, Stagman channels his feelings of being betrayed and lied to – and he speaks his mind without holding back an inch. The song comes across as his therapy and without taking any part in agreeing nor disagreeing with him, it’s a heartfelt, honest and open tune lyrically – and yes, the message do comes across. Musically, the tune is slow and sullen with stripped vocals that shows his disappointment and anger – it really gets under my skin. The refrain is immediate and even hooky which makes it stick. It’s a great song should go down well even for people who don’t know Swedish at all.

“Ingen Annan Vet” (No One Else Knows) is also in slow pace, stripped down and earthy, dark in sound where Stagman sings in his lower register. This one also comes across as very honest where Stagman invites you to his inner self which makes the tune both emotional and quite intense – it feels like you can reach out and touch the tune’s ambience. The song brings out the singer-song writer style from his first record a bit more. Love it! “Side Vid Sida” (Side By Side) takes a whole other turn where some folky acoustic guitars and an upbeat groove blended with some singer-song writer Rock makes this a more uplifting tune, perfect for a ride in the car with the top-lift down. If I had one of those cars, that is. The melodies are smooth and welcoming and even though it’s a mid-paced number, the swing is infectious. It also brings on some slight camp-fire vibes, a touch of balladry and an enormous chorus. This should really be a single because I smell a hit.

The title “Hey La Vida Loca” almost gives away how the music will sound – and my guess was right. It’s an upbeat, rhythmic and uptempo stomper in a Classic Rock meets Pop way where the happy-go-lucky vibes are touchable. The tune has a very positive outlook and brings along a danceable party feel – and a solo part that brings on a Bruce Springsteen meets New Jersey era Bon Jovi touch. With striking and catchy melodies where hook after hook takes a hold of you, the tune really makes you wanna crack open a cold one and a have a good time with your friends. A great song and a very much needed one to give the album some light and even more variation. “Redo Och Klar” (Ready And Done) is an upbeat, straight-forward pop-rocker that recycles melodies from the charts of early 80’s Sweden, a time when pop-bands that sang in Swedish ruled the air-waves, all waved into the melody arrangements of the last two Stagman albums. It’s a damn catchy and fun-loving track that put a smile on my face right from go. How brilliant!

“Resan Som Vi Gjort” (The Journey We Made) is a stripped, organic and dynamic ballad, based on acoustic guitars where Stagman takes on said journey through his life – he sings the songs to himself about himself. Strings are also added and they bring on the already prominent melancholy of both atmosphere and phrasings. It’s a somewhat sullen tune but also with a dreamy touch and also it feels like Stagman is looking back with joy despite the the song’s melancholic ambience. Even though it’s laid-back and stripped, the song dwells in a big soundscape. I love the song and it’s hard to not be affected by it. Closing track “Här Kommer Tystnaden” (Here Comes The Silence) is a laid-back half-ballad that’s atmospheric, soulful and a dark yet gorgeous arranged with a slightly saddening twist but at the same time it holds a rhythmic beat and a feel-good vibe of sorts. Again, the chorus is grand in all its held-backness and nails itself to the brain right from go.

For the third time in a row, Bo “Zinny” Stagman has released an album that completely knocked me for six – and even though I love the last two records, I’ll be damned if I don’t hold this one as his best. This time he has collected some new expressions and while the singer-song writer styles are still here, yet not as prominent as on his other releases. On this album there’s more of straight-forward Pop and Rock involved and we’re being treated with strings, banjos, saxophones and synthesizers waved in which makes for some major variation. Lyrically, it’s also very varied. On one hand we get some social criticism with hard-edged aggression, on the other hand we’re invited to Stagman’s personal life-journey and on the side some positive and life-loving tunes which creates some amazing dynamics.

What stands very clear, though, is that Stagman has poured his heart and soul into the album – and I have to point this out once more – lots of honesty. I believe I read somewhere that this album is the last of a trilogy so where he will go from here is unsure but with three magnificent records under his belt, I’m sure he has a fourth in him somewhere – one can only hope. Regarding the Swedish lyrics, they are now something I equal his solo career with but another part of me feels it’s a bit unfair to keep this project from a non-swedish audience. Sure, anyone can listen but few will have a clue what the songs are about – and since Stagman has proven to be a brilliant lyricist, to be able to get what the songs are about is a pretty big thing. So the next step might be to translate his records into English? Be that as it may, I will round this review up by saying that Stagman’s third effort will without a doubt be at the top when the Album of The Year 2020 list is final at the end of the year!

9/10

More Stagman reviews:

Är Ni Kvar Där Ute?
Moder Jord

Tracklist:

1. En Mil I Mina Skor
2. Ser Ni Eldarna
3. Inga Sånger Kvar I Mitt Jukeboxhjärta
4. Tar Vad Vi Kan Få
5. Kejsarens Nya Kläder
6. Ingen Annan Vet
7. Sida Vid Sida
8. Hey La Vida Loca
9. Redo Och Klar
10. Resan Som Vi Gjort
11. Här Kommer Tystnaden