Those Dancing Days are five girls from Stockholm who play bouncy pop but are punk as fuck says Lucy Cage
Last month I saw Those Dancing Days at All Tomorrow’s Parties – the Butlins-hosted Ee-Zee fest for the middle-aged indie-kid – and they blew the gathered Scottish popocracy off its collective stage. If you haven’t heard (of) them yet, they are five girls from Stockholm who play ferociously bouncy pop. They turned up on stage at some eyelid-drooping hour of the night, a whirl of gold sequins and pouts, and played their hearts out for a crowd of soon-besotted aging Belle & Sebastian fans. And what struck me first ”â other than the sulky glances the bassplayer was throwing out at us from under her hoodie and behind her glasses ”â was how breezily proficient they were.
OK, so proficient has never had much of a history as a successful come on. It’s the prefect’s pin of the pop badge collection; a goddamn boy thing. Draws admiration rather than the urgent twist of the guts and the groin you want from your music. It’s possibly, even, the absolute antithesis of the anarchic curve-balls genius throws, especially if you believe the theory that creativity comes from the ability to make mistakes. Training fucks this up: if you abide by the rules, you might get really really good at following them, but you’re not going to do anything miraculous.
So many of the bands I’ve loved have been good at doing the wrong thing, have embraced the axiom that if you make a mistake you play it again and you play it LOUDER: I’m thinking of another all-girl band, Ut, who picked up the instruments that came to hand ”â violin, drums, guitar ”â and dragged whatever notes they could out of them. And glorious it was too, strings scraping gorgeously errant harmonies you’d never dream up if you knew what the hell you were doing. The alchemy of wrong worked especially well for women back then, who’d been out of the boys-with-guitars rock’n’roll loop for so long that they had to make their own. Mix in naÃÂ¯vetÃÂ© and chuck away any maps and, picking names from the hat that informed my musical tastes, you get a band like Pram, with their xylophones and toy pianos and unearthly space lullabies; Throwing Muses with their backbone of American demotic shapes, traditional folk songs and military band rhythms (and, oh god, Kristin with her wild ideas of how guitars play); whole hives of riot grrls who, like their punk and post-punk sisters before them, just wanted to play and weren’t going to let something as tiresome as musical expertise stop them, bum notes all over the place, loud and proud and thrilling. Yup: guts and groins, a shivered feel for what sounds right rather than what should be, that’s where it’s at.
So the fact that Those Dancing Days wear their competence so well was somewhat surprising, especially since the only recording I’d heard at that point had fostered a general impression of blissfully shambolic, foot-tripping ingenuousness. But not only do they wear it with casual grace, they make it something to celebrate, something icy cool. Perhaps girls can bank a certain amount of proficiency credit simply by virtue of their gender: boys being clever-clever is nothing new but technical skill isn’t generally much admired in women (for an example of how absurdly low the stakes are here, see the Elle magazine list of, er, the best female guitarists OF ALL TIME, which inexplicably includes Kelley Deal among the twelve it manages to dig up. But, to its credit, if we must spare it some, the list does rate Marnie Stern, whose frenetic guitar lines are a resolutely ungirly bloodrushed whoop in the face of boy-centric virtuosity). But never mind their cute-cool capability, there’s a whole lot more going on which elevates Those Dancing Days way beyond the kooky-girl-backed-by-boys-in-skinny-trousers formula that women at the Pitchfork end of the market usually get to be allowed to slot themselves into.
For a start, they’ve been playing together professionally for five years. And not just any old five years, but the half-decade from mid-teens on, when neurons are snapping and hormones hustling and brains re-wiring themselves in a stew of self-belief and iconoclasm. What they make with that is a headlong rush of stabby synths and furious beats (the tiny sweetly-smiling Cissi batters at her drum kit like it’s an annoying little brother needing to be taught a lesson or two: she’s mesmerising) beneath a sure-footed vocal that belongs somewhere else entirely. Wigan, maybe.ÃÂ Linnea, with her untamed mop of curls, is channelling those precocious big-voiced girls of Sixties pop – Sandy, Petula or Ronnie perhaps – soaring and sweetly abrasive, as un-indie as cigars. The combination of brash youthful inventiveness and utter sortedness is extraordinarily engaging, particularly in a bunch of girls who, whoever winsome, are recognisably ordinary kids, all pinkly enthusiastic and stylistically unpolished (in pitiful contrast to the poor X-Factored newbies of tellyland pop, who go from awkward to Auton without passing Go) and thus the epitome of insouciant cool. Zooey bloody Deschanel they are not.
I first heard their song Those Dancing Days (taken from their EP Those Dancing Days: go for the all-out name bombardment, why not?) a couple of years ago. Built around a squelchy keyboard riff, some high-speed scattergun drums and gloriously self-absorbed teenage lyrics – “High on life/ In love with me/ Dancing in the night/ Dancing through the days”Â – I liked it but was obviously not paying enough attention. The fact that live they stomped over an entire festival weekend gives me great hope for their forthcoming second album. As does the poundingly fierce new track, Fuckarias, which, whether through teenage gawky genius or second-language-itis, has lyrics as wrong as you like:
“You’re an uninvited clown
A foolish puppy with a too long tongue
You stumble and fall, you’re the worst of them all
You’re in my space, get out of my face.”Â
Ha! I love them. Fuck ”Ëright’, let’s dance. Go download the song for free here and you can fall for them too.