Although the relationships we are involved in always seem to tumble throughout the many bumps and well, turbulence we go through, there is a consistent love shared with close friends. There’s no denying the familiarity and the utter comfort one can share with someone they’ve known forever and often, it breeds the best kinds of fruition. For I Was A King, friendship has always been at the core of who they are. And fashioning a collection of styles that all stem through the mysterious ideas floating around Frode Strømstad’s head, Old Friends is the band’s showing of what friendship can truly accomplish.
On the picturesque “Nightwalking,” the band asks “Who knew what the fuss was all about?” as they ardently hone in their brightest New Pornographers’ sound. And much like that band’s all-encompassing, group setting and togetherness-sound, I Was A King treats their music as reason to rejoice with one another. On the ensuing “Snow Song,” a Supertramp-like piano line leads in to the soft touch of percussion before a driving guitar line closes the song out. With so many hands allowed to come and go – everyone participating with necessary parts when the music calls for them – the music is a free-form expression of unity.
Take “Unreal” and its messy panel of noise: rolling drums, intensified horn howls and squeals introduce the song to a poetic verse of singing. The drums still crash underneath the string’s swelling but the distortion is almost magnetic and never sloppy. Other times, as it’s tenderly done on the title track, the creativity Strømstad shoots for with sessions that included writing the music as it came along, is a refreshing boast of clarity.
Though the album takes great measure in detailing a solid collection of vivid pop music, the album’s underwhelming style buries a lot of the potential under dreary projections. The opener, “The Wylde Boys” packs a fierce tempo and gritty horn section that delves into Broken Social Scene territory but the huge wall of sound that you’re waiting for never appears. And later, on “Daybreak,” the song suffers from a cascade of style shifts and modifications that even the ending outpouring of voices sound more like a clutter, rather than a true cluster of layers. It’s hard to make out whether the lax experimentation disallowed for true songcraft to creep in. And with most of the songs clocking in at less than three minutes long, the ideas seem unfinished leaving much left to be desired.
There is a solid amount of quirkiness to realize and I Was A King surely have a knack for turning out strong songs but maybe next time a ‘less equals more’ approach would be more fitting. While the ideas Strømstad and Co. have presented definitely seem intriguing, the basis of friendship also requires fervent honesty and truth be told, Old Friends still sounds like something in the works.
“Nightwalking” by I Was A King