Monday, September 21, 2009

Lolita Pop: Sweden's best kept pop secret

It’s usually not clear why an excellent band fails to achieve widespread recognition. It could be a lack of promotion, bad timing, or probably most often combination of factors. Swedish band Lolita Pop is a prime example of a truly special group that for whatever reason couldn’t break into the American market during their existence from 1979 to 1990 and still remain virtually unknown outside their home country.

Lolita Pop formed in Örebro, Sweden in 1979 with vocalist Karin Wistrand, guitarists Sten Booberg and Benkt Smith, bassist Thomas Johansson, drummer Peter Olsen and tenor saxophonist Per Eriksson. The band began as a post-punk/new wave outfit driven by their love of New York punk a la Patti Smith and Television, releasing their first album, Falska bilder, in 1982. It was a much darker, heavier affair than upbeat power pop they would come to be best known for a few years later, but two very important elements of the unit’s sound came through early on: the exuberant, slightly husky vocals of Wistrand and the hard-hitting guitar work of Booberg and Smith.

The band’s early days produced three additional Swedish LPs – Fem söker en skatt, Irrfärder, Att ha fritidsbåt – as well as their debut, self-titled English language release in 1984. For this release, they reworked some of the material from earlier, Swedish records into English. 1985 single “2000 år,” nicely summarizes the band's early sound:

After finding success in their home country, the band signed an American deal with Virgin and released their second English-language LP, once again titled simply Lolita Pop, in 1987. Despite a U.S. tour and a record full of incredibly catchy pop, the band never found a sizable American audience. Listening to the record more than 20 years after its release, it’s downright puzzling that infectious material such as “Mess of Machinery,” “Bang Your Head” and “Mind Your Eye” didn’t make a bigger dent in the States, as it’s arguably as good as anything else on the pop charts at the time.

Nevertheless, the band continued to score chart success in Sweden and reappeared in 1989 with Love Poison. Although this LP was also sung in English, this time there was no American promotional push, and the band’s biggest Swedish hit - the fantastic “Tarzan on a Big Red Scooter" - was mostly confined to their home country.

Love Poison was arguably Lolita Pop’s finest moment, full of hooky, guitar-driven pop and Wistrand’s best vocal delivery to date. The record gave the band another Swedish hit via the beautiful “Hey Winner,” and also featured an outstanding take on Magazine's biting post-punk anthem, "Song from Under the Floorboards."

Now recording exclusively in English, the band released what would be their final studio album, Blumenkraft, in 1990. The record featured many highlights, including the melodic single “Here She Comes” and the singalong power pop of “Live Forever,” “Wingbeats of the Night” and “Pay the Piper,” but it also contained more filler than most other Lolita Pop releases and overall didn’t receive a positive critical response. The band split soon after.

Since the break up, the band have reportedly played occasional one-off gigs, and Wistrand is currently involved in Jeremias Session Band. During their time, Lolita Pop might not have received the international attention they deserved, but with any luck intrepid new wave and power pop fans will begin discovering the band's music, no doubt some of the finest forgotten pop of its time.

Here are two of the band's albums - their 1981 debut, Falska Bilder (in Swedish) and their 1987 self-titled English LP.

Lolita Pop - Falska Bilder (1981)

Lolita Pop - self-titled LP (1987)

Lolita Pop lineup:

Founding members:
Karin Wistrand, vocals
Sten Booberg, guitar
Benkt Smith, guitar
Thomas Johansson, bass
Per Eriksson, tenor sax
Peter Olsen, drums
Other members:
Henrik Melin, Bass (1987)
Christer Björklund, drums

Lolita Pop discography:

Falska bilder (1982 –Swedish)
Fem söker en skatt (1983 – Swedish)
Irrfärder (1983 – Swedish)
Lolita Pop (1984 – first English language release)
Att ha fritidsbåt (1985 – Swedish)
Lolita Pop (1987 – second English language release, different than self-titled 1984 album)
Love Poison (1989 - English)
Blumenkraft (1990 – English, the band’s final LP)
Regn av dagar 1982-1990 (1993 – “best of” compilation)
Klassiker (2008 – 2 disc “best of” compilation)


gabbazoo said...

Great post, I am gonna check this stuff out when i get a chance



Frank said...

Hi gabbazoo, thanks for the comment. I've added two of their albums to the post in case you want to check them out.