Kåre João – Sideman

Kåre João

It’s no coincidence that Kåre João called this, his first solo album, Sideman. Despite playing for a band for almost a decade that bore his name, Kåre & the Cavemen, João was primarily the drummer of that avant-instrumental garage band (which also bore the name Euroboys). In the Norwegian rock scene, however, João has made his impact known, even playing a bit for the most well-known band from Oslo, perhaps, Gluecifer.
No longer comfortable being a sideman, João sat down with a computer, guitar, and assorted instruments to put together this release. It’s mostly the music that’s his – the lyrics are mostly written and sung by Anders Bortne of the Norwegian band Whopper. The music here is something of a mix. At its best, it’s a swirling, post-psychedelic wall of sound and power, both beautiful and rather frightening. At its worst, it’s more garage rock with some layered sound effects. Both styles are explored here, but there’s no doubt that João’s most unique sound structures are in the former, more trippy mix of layered guitars, powerful rhythms, and sonic blasts of feedback and effects.
The album’s best track is the surreal psychedelic rock of “Captain Trips” that is equal parts Pink Floyd and My Bloody Valentine. At almost eight minutes, the track is focused around layers of guitars and keys that give the song a thick but vibrant and even trippy atmosphere. Gluecifer’s guitarist even makes a guest appearance on this track. Even more laid back, “Channel Five” has mellow, repetitive vocals over layers of often warbling, wailing guitars in the background and a light, peaceful rhythm to contrast. João throws everything into the song, from horns to keys and guitars, and on this track it works. On other songs, it’s less effective, creating a distracting buzz on the mellow “Sunshine Blues” and “Love Report,” which is a bit too psychedelic for its own good.
Listed as the potential hit, “Frank Furius” (sic) is the most catchy song here, but it’s by no means the best. Instead, it resembles something of the quirky nature of a Lou Reed song and merely provides a nice break-up of the album. Rather, the songs that succeed the most are the more experimental tracks, like “Captain Trips,” the mostly instrumental psychedelic romp of “Mission to Cure My Condition,” and the closing “Dark of Heartness,” which is a fantastic swirling track of soaring guitar lines and moody vocals.
Sideman is extremely accessible for coming from around the world. Sounding a bit more British than Norwegian, the songs here are quite intriguing. At times, João combines enough guitar, synth, and effects to create a brilliant array of rock and soul, yet at others he falls back into comfortable rock boundaries. Still, for making the step to a solo album, this one is a good one, and it shows much potential for an ambitious career on his own.