Millencolin is another Swedish export that’s been a distinct part of the global punk rock scene since 1992.
Punk music truly is a global genre if ever there was one. NOFX can pack a venue in Chile and Sweden’s Refused have no trouble filling one in basically any North American city. Millencolin is another Swedish export that’s been a distinct part of the global punk rock scene since 1992. True Brew is their first record since 2008’s Machine 15 and their eighth studio record. In all that time the band seems not only to have matured but also tightened up their delivery and studio production skills. That could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on whom you ask. The purist punk might say that fine wine is not what you’re after — that raw grit and loose, careless guitar abuse is what constitutes a great punk record. But let’s face it, we’re in a different era and we’re talking about Epitaph records here. The label is home to some of the most influential punk bands and pop-punk bands in the scene and, more importantly, has remained so for many of those careers from early loose grit to tight and flawless execution.
The first thing you notice about True Brew is how incredibly tight it is. The influence of label-mates (and, notably, label-founders) Bad Religion is clear in the layers upon layers of buzzing riffage and complicated melodic hooks. This is the first record that the band recorded entirely by itself and it’s a considerable accomplishment. The balance is perfect — Nikola Sarcevic’s vocals come through so clearly that you can hear the endearing Swedish inflection in some of his lyrics. But it’s not so loud and in your face that it overshadows the relentless guitar grind or the pop of the drum kit. If there’s a fault with the production it’s that many of the songs fail to differentiate. “True Brew” is one exception. The chorus rings out in an anthemic pattern and Sarcevic sings out, “I don’t wanna live my life doing stuff I don’t like to do” and then takes it up to an unexpected and attention grabbing high note for “I just wanna spend my time creating something true!” It’s a standout moment on the record that there should be more of. Unfortunately this track is the exception that proves the rule and much of the rest of the record seems engineered for consistency rather than exceptional moments.
“Something I Would Die For” begs to have the dial turned up — an anthem for those who care about something with a fervor. In fact, on repeat listens, so do many of the other tracks on the record — even the oddly slide-guitar tainted “Mr. Fake Believe.” Just about every song here feels like it needs more volume and you realize quickly that the desire to wind it up to 11 is a compensation measure to make it stand alone. It’s again because they’re all good tracks but the degree to which they tend to sonically run together is uncanny.
While “Sense & Sensibility” is the first video single to be released from the record, it’s hard to imagine that this single will reign in any new fans for the band. It feels like something we’ve already heard and the fact that the band is exploring socio-political themes in their music is likely to be a novelty to old fans but lost on any new listeners. It sounds like punk music — but it’s bringing little new or exceptional to the table. It’s a solid record, but it’s as solid and conventional as many pop-punk records we’ve heard before.