Let me start this review for people who are less acquainted with Club 8. The People's Record is the Swedish duo's 7th album. The two started this band in 1996, with music and lyrics written by Johan Angergard of the Acid House Kings. Karolina Komstedt of PopRace does most of the singing in the band's enchanted discography. (Yes, they are still my favorite band...look up Amazon listmania for my Club 8 guide)
The People's Record has the duo in a new direction, exploring a mix of Brazilian polyrhythms mixed with Nigerian-like Juju Afrobeat music. Since it is also called "The People's Record" it has that feel one sees in over-the-top mainland Chinese stage productions (you know...a million people dancing in costumes of every single conceivable color with every known instrument playing all at once). Ok, if you are not familiar with all these genres, then imagine festive, upbeat congas, bongos frantically playing underneath two electric guitars with a busy bass line, a farfisa organ and a choir of people chanting lines in unison ALL after drinking a pitcher of coffee, ALL competing with the vocalist's voice, and you basically have the first 3 songs and 80% of the the way the album sounds. Your ears almost split in six opposing directions, not knowing what to listen to. Wiki the Loudness War and you will have a better understanding of how overcompression leads to this situation.
Song 4 and 5 (Dancing with the Mentally Ill, My Pessimistic Heart) lets up a little on the dense mix, with Karolina's familiar reverberating voice from the previous albums surfacing a little over the sparser instruments. You can finally discern what she's saying without getting distracted.
Songs 6-10 returns to an overpowering band - even a screeching sax on "Like Me"- and dense, ethnic-funky beats where choir and band reduces the main "lead" vocals to an equal and "contributing member" status.
Song 9 ("We're All Going To Dies") is particularly hilarious in how it creates a variation from the signature style of Club 8 - combining an upbeat, seemingly happy song with pessimistic nihilism in the lyrics - and pokes fun at mall goth culture.
Song 10 ("The People Speak") takes a Northern Soul beat and explodes it into a mega-production, complete with competing instrumentation, choir, and heavily reverberating Komstedt vocals.
My problem with this album is the production. In previous recordings, Club 8's production lies solely in the hands of Angergard. "The People's Record" features a second guitarist (Jari Haapalainen) who is also the record's producer. The mix suffers from that phenomenon where people who look at snapshots seek first their own faces. Therefore, the guitars are pumped up all the way - in some songs above and over Komstedt's voice. For any band, I'd shrug it off. But for THE band whose familiar voice and lyrics has harped on the erosion of time and age, the drowning out of that voice we've heard for 15 years, with overamplification is a little depressing.
Speaking as a person who has written and recorded many songs on a tiny four-track (eventually computer sequencer), then having those same songs re-recorded and mixed by well-known producers in big studios, I have noticed a loss of intimacy when the production goes from a bedroom or studio with two people to a space with a dozen musicians with competing egos. If you love the hushed, intimate sound of Club 8 from their previous albums, you will find yourself in new territory with The People's Record.
All in all, an interesting addition to the duo's discography. Just to be clear, I will always embrace and support any band in exploring ANY new direction....even when I'm not ecstatic about the results. As much as I love the familiar "sound" of Club 8 from the previous albums, I know no self-respecting artist can stick to a formula or continue to create the same song in endless variations.