on 25 September 2015
It has long dawned on me that some of the cultural pursuits that are of major importance to me don’t seem to matter to most other people. Although my personal perception is that I make obvious and rather mainstream cultural choices, I often find that this is not so, and in my cultural life I sometimes feel solitary and “uncrowded”. That can be a blessing (the uncrowded part), but also a curse (the solitary). It is exactly so with my love for Kent who, despite being the most popular band in Sweden, are almost unknown here in the UK. If a fan wants to see them play live, he/she needs to visit Sweden. Kent celebrate their twentieth anniversary in discography this year: Their first, eponymous, album was released in early 1995 and they have gone strong ever since. I really wanted to write something about them in Amazon for this 20-year occasion, but I didn’t feel like it should be about their first album, because I personally didn’t quite fall in love with them until their second offering, Verkligen, hit the stores in early 1996. For me the two first Kent albums came very quickly one after the other: I got the first one in late 1995 and then got the second album about 5 months later, in early 1996. So, it feels like these two first works of the band are fused together in my heart and I love them both. But! “Verkligen” for me was the one that did it! You know how it is, sometimes: You like someone a lot, and then something happens, things “click,” everything falls into place, and suddenly… “boom! You’re in love!” Well, for me, Verkligen is the moment when I knew I’d fallen for Kent.
Don’t quite know what it is about this album; it’s hard to pinpoint. It started with holding the CD: the cover is most beautiful and very vibrant in colour. Almost looks like a Christmas card. It also was, of course, their music. Then, it must have been the extraordinary, kinda silly and certainly “very different” video clip for “Kräm (Så nära får ingen gå)”= Cream (Noone’s allowed so close), a song that also happens to have very interesting lyrics, which are, however, completely unconnected to the clip’s plot. Or, it could have been the beauty of the sadness of the last song in the album “Vi kan väl vänta tills imorgon” =We can wait until tomorrow.
Then, just this month, I suddenly came to realise that the reason “Verkligen” is my favourite Kent album is because it contains a song which was, is, and will probably always remain my favourite Kent song: "En timme en minut" = An hour a minute. It is as epic as it is long – it runs to 8:08 mins according to the CD sleeve. It is not everyone’s cup of tea. The person who introduced me to Kent, for example, is not a big fan of it. With such a length, it is more on the symphonic side than on the pop side of things. But I could listen to it for hours. Could and often do. Beautiful music, sublime lyrics.
This song seems to signal the moment in time that its composer and lyricist, Joakim Berg, felt was a landmark in his life: The moment he and Kent became famous. Kent might not be well known outside Sweden, but inside their country they are the most popular band ever. They are the “kings” in the hearts of the Swedes, a nation which allegedly is the third exporting power in the music industry worldwide, a nation which produces - and very profitably sells - all kinds of music (from classical to death metal to dance) to all other nations everywhere, and which is universally admired and known for its musical legacy, especially in recent times. And of this nation’s hearts, Kent are the chosen sweethearts. Everyone in Sweden will have at least one Kent CD stashed away in a drawer somewhere. Fame for them came fast and strong, immediately upon the release of their first album in 1995. They had been in music long before that, so it must have been rather “apocalyptic” to suddenly find themselves so “big” and recognisable. They could have flipped. They could have gone full-on “sex and drugs and rock’n’roll.” They probably did a bit of both, but then there was also this: They took a step back, paused and reflected on the “why” and the “how” and on the “what” had just happened to them during 1995. So, for their second album, this major song was written, and it express their feelings beautifully, or, at least, Berg’s feelings, for he is the sole creator of this song.
The lyrics are spoken directly from the heart and that is why this is the song that it is. No ambiguities here- and my! How does Berg love those! But not here: “An hour a minute” he says. “Here time stands still.” It is almost as if he has stopped feeling human and has now become sound: “I am only sound. I do everything on pure will.”
Then, he takes a step back and assesses the situation. He has aimed from the start to capture people’s hearts with his music: “If you see someone then shoot/ I stand very close behind/ and I am only sound/ so I move as I wish.”
Why am I so successful? Berg then wonders. Is it because I can express feelings so well? Or is it because I am unique? Because I don’t feel unique! This he thinks, so, he writes: “Everything I did/ will be done again/It vaguely resembles something I felt once/ but back then I never gave (it) much thought …”
Could it be that I am successful because I have been lucky? He then muses. Could it be because I can sing very well?: “Sure it was only luck/ I have something in my throat.” Then, he ponders: No, it wasn’t only luck, I cannot accept that: “Sure it was only luck/No, that’s not correct at all.” He concludes that he is successful because he can capture people’s hearts and express their feelings. And because of it, he feels both very blessed and truly free: “An hour a minute/ I stand very close behind/I have a contract with God/ so I do what I want.”
So, he resolves that popularity and recognition must have come from the fact he, as an artist, is rather skilled in expressing not just his own feelings, but feelings that are universal. And he feels lucky because it comes easy to him to express what so many people can identify with, without having to think about it for too long: “Everything I did/ will be done again/It resembles something everyone felt sometime/But I never gave it much thought…”
A fortunate and capable man, then, and a truly good artist. One day all of our favourite musicians and composers will dematerialise. They will turn into sound and we will carry them with us wherever we go, just like we carry Kent with us wherever we go.
I hear that Kent are currently working on a new album. That is great news. So here’s to another 20 years of Kent. Until then…
BTW, this was my own translation of the song into English, from the lyrics as they are printed in the 1996 CD booklet; all the lyrics together:
An hour a minute/ Here time stands still/ I am only sound/ I do everything on pure will/ If you see someone then shoot/ I stand very close behind/ and I am only sound/ so I move as I wish/ Everything I did/ will be done again/It vaguely resembles something/ I felt once/ but back then I never gave (it) much thought …/Sure it was only luck/ I have something in my throat/ Sure it was only luck/No, that’s not correct at all/ An hour a minute/ I stand very close behind/I have a contract with God/ so I do what I want/Everything I did/ will be done again/It resembles something everyone felt sometime/But I never gave it much thought…