Division of Laura Lee – 97-99

It’s nice to know that bands like Division of Laura Lee were playing hard rock in the not-too-distant-past of boy bands, pretty girls and rap, when *NSYNC delighted teenyboppers, Jewel was a folkie, and Puff Daddy, Brandi, and R. Kelly ruled the airwaves. During those bleak days, Division of Laura Lee was very hard at work, rocking away in their Sweden homeland and refining their sound with some of today’s buzz bands, bands like the Hives, International Noise Conspiracy, Sahara Hotnights, and the Soundtrack of Our Lives, who all were in their infancy. This compilation of their early work, 97-99, covers the first three years the Division of Laura Lee were together. At a time when the US was under the spell of sugary pop and re-mixed rap retakes, these Scandinavian bands were just waiting to pounce on bored American ears. But like Yogi Berra once said, “The future ain’t what it used to be.”
The future for the Division of Laura Lee is as fresh as their past. After their critically praised 2002 album, Black City, releasing this compilation to reveal their formative years may seem like a record company’s ploy to score some quick bucks. Still, this album should help the band pick up as many new fans as their first release did.
While the Division of Laura Lee might not have the staggering showmanship of the Hives or the psychedelic eclecticism of the Soundtrack of Our Lives, the Division of Laura Lee – with Per Stalberg (vocals, guitar), Jonas Gustavsson (bass), David Ojala (guitar), and Hakan Johansson (drums) – have a more polished sound. The band’s formative years have a sound that mixes rock with garage and punk, and comes across with an urgency found only in the best rock ‘n roll bands.
The best tracks – “Time to Live,” “Stereotype,” and “Stop! Go!” – showcase a 70s punk feel. Buzzing guitars and plaintive wails are punctuated by a driving backbeat. While the album has a lo-fi feel, it’s as tightly woven as a Persian rug. The songs all showcase something that American teens seemed to have forgotten in that not too distant past: music was not meant to be five men wearing head mics and doing choreographed stage moves, but thrashing guitars and a battering attitude, even if the lyrics are delivered with a funny accent.