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Righteous Boy

REVIEW: Righteous Boy: I Sing Because of You
11.3.2001 by Sean

Righteous Boy : I Sing Because of You [Stockholm Records, 2002]

Two words? Honeysuckle crooning.

According to the official history of Swedish pop-group the Cardigans, the band had its beginnings in a hardcore metal band, where guitarist Peter Svensson met bassist Magnus Sveningsson. If we were to ignore the Cardigans' sterling sugar-pop history, then, we might imagine Sveningsson's solo project as a foray into funk-inspired, Scandinavian metal. The big man, with his broad shoulders and handsome, nordic features, could certainly be pictured with mullet and sleeveless T, roaring some low, Rammstein-style nonsense. Of course, we can't ignore Sveningsson's involvement with the Cardigans, nor his wet-dog expression on the cover of I Sing Because of You, so for all of these idle day-dreams, Righteous Boy isn't really going to surprise anyone with these utterly likable euro-lounge tunes.

But then, Sveningsson doesn't seem to be out to surprise anyone, in the first place. Judging from the consistent, mellow vibe of I Sing Because of You, he's here to cool things down, not shake things up. He sings with the soft tenor of the choir-boy soccer player you envied in high school, the slight whisper in his voice recalling (at times) the very-different-mellow of Mojave 3's Neil Halstead. Throughout the disc, Righteous Boy delivers variations on a solid, pleasant theme: laid-back, jazzy songs with not-too-peppy "la la la's", fat europop synths, and the occasional serenade of a muted trumpet. "Loved Among Friends" epitomizes the vibe with a lovely, rising bridge, and its cute, teddy-bear melody. Sveningsson succeeds by keeping his lyrics appealingly dopey, while not singing the kind of stupid inanities that ruined Johnny Favourite's pop-swing attempt. On "A View From a Satellite" he does get a little bit too sleepy, but everything's rescued by the minor-key choral flourishes on "No More Love". The album's most disappointing track comes at the close of the disc, when the nothing-special "You Better Do Good" shuffles with a yawn-worthy, prom-dance rhythm, and then completely fades away, leaving a tangible 'That's it!?' on the listener's lips. But this is a petty quibble. The jaunty "Righteous Boy/Righteous Girl" takes a page from the Dallas songbook, pairing sing-along lyrics with a bouncy bass-line and locomotive percussion, and "I Made It Hard For You To Love Me" sweeps us back into the full-blown romance of a film-score ballad. Never does Righteous Boy stray too far from his slow, crooning formula, however; he recognizes the limitations of his sleepy singing voice and somewhat pedestrian melodies. This enriches I Sing Because of You's groovy, retro atmosphere however, raising the pastel-suited spirits of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. If lounge music becomes too interesting, it evolves into a dance-floor, and as you're sitting hand-in-hand with someone, eating meringue, you want nothing but that warm, honey vibe.

With I Sing Because of You, Righteous Boy has created a reassuring, if not particularly innovative record; one that can spin round and round on the stereo with its scrumptious, laid-back vibe, without raising a sweat.

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