Jens Lekman Review
SOURCE first encountered Mr Lekman back in 2004, playing a theatre in his hometown of Gothenburg alongside a brass section as the rain sheeted down outside. That gig went on to be released as a live EP in the States, showcasing Jens’ studied crooning – each song a lament to lost love or friendship with a different girl. It was the darkly comic lyrics that really stood out, peppered with oblique references to Cliff Richard and “lukewarm English beer”.
Eight years and a temporary relocation to Melbourne on, new album ‘I Know What Love Isn’t’ finds Lekman more doomed in love than ever, much to the benefit of fans of deeply sung lyrical Swedish folk pop. Tonight in Brighton, he is by turns charming and a little shambolic, ending his set by inviting audience members to approach him after the show if they want any more songs, having begun it by forgetting to turn his guitar pedal on as he silently strummed the first 30 seconds of opener ‘Become Someone Else’s', his face a picture of confusion.
Jens has long been something of a heartthrob to the Scandi indie set, and much of the front third of this crowd is a cluster of impossibly blonde headband-sporting Swedish girls. The song introductions are in many ways as lyrical as the tracks themselves. The new album’s title track, he explains, is about a suggested marriage of convenience to allow him to remain in Australia. An offer which he turned down as “it’s illegal, so if I’d gone through with it, I wouldn’t be able to tell the story [in song]“.
Lekman introduces ‘Waiting For Kirsten’ as the tale of a weekend he spent stalking actress Kirsten Dunst around Gothenburg, but as with all his songs, there’s far more beneath the surface here, and the song goes on to rail against the erosion of free healthcare and rise of the far-right in Sweden. Despite the slow, stripped downbeat timbre of most of these compositions, the headbands bounce along in time and the world’s most civilised moshpit threatens to break out on several occasions.
Although known for touring with all-female backing bands, tonight Jens’ accompanying musicians are evenly split gender-wise, with men on drums and keys, women on violin and bass. Said bassist looks far too ‘rock’ for this kind of thing, but the ensemble (supplemented by pre-recorded samples) is tight, the singer himself adding electro-acoustic guitar and well received ‘air xylophone’.
Tonight is Leonard Cohen’s 78th birthday, and it’s somewhat fitting that Lekman, in many ways a younger, Swedisher Cohen gives ‘The Opposite Of Hallelujah’ and ‘A Postcard To Nina’ a workout. The stylistic inspiration for these tracks – the former a tale of a sister and a ocean, the latter a riff on ‘Famous Blue Raincoat’ even down to the “yours truly, Jens Lekman” sign-off – is obvious.
As the Haunt’s ferociously early weekend gig curfew approaches and loitering headbands wait to take Jens up on his offer of an after-hours personal performance, he just has time to regale us with an anecdote from his last visit to Brighton – a mix-up at hotel reception that resulted in him being installed in a suite intended for German footballer Jens Lehmann. It seems too contrived to be true, and one suspects he tells the same anecdote wherever he plays, but surely a man who wears his heart as far down his sleeve as Lekman is incapable of lying. Isn’t he?
Haunt, Friday 21st September 2012
Words and photos by Adam Peters