Review: Archie Marvellous “Best of Krogsrud & Teisberg”

Archie Marvellous “Best of Krogsrud & Teisberg”

11 May, 2011 Heath Andrews

If you were to take the melodic vocals and harmonies of the Mamas & The Papas, set it to the dream-pop sounds of The Dream Academy and add in some of the energy of Crowded House, the resulting concoction would yield Archie Marvellous.  This Norwegian band is very vocally intensive, relying heavily on their multiple vocalists to create their sound.  On their 2011 album, Best Of Krogsrud & Teisberg the titular last names refer to the two primary songwriters, Gudmund Krogsrud and Jon Anders Teisberg.  The two of them have put together a vividly harmonic experience, even though at times some of their songs can be a bit too long winded for their own good.

Both Krogsrud & Teisberg contribute vocals to the album, with the former playing guitars as well, but it’s lead vocalist Ketil Eik who carries the weight of the melodies.  Fortunately for all involved, his voice has the power, range and tone to support each and every piece.  Eik’s voice can go from soothing to forceful at the drop of a hat, and this quality is showcased numerous times on the album.  On the first track, “Listen To The Rain,” his voice picks up during the refrain as he sings, “From all around, comes a wall of sound…”

One of the best demonstrations of Eik’s voice is on “Stay Single.”  Once again, when the chorus of the song approaches, his voice reaches higher, and sounds blissful.  The effect is accentuated by a bit of a vocal overdub as the lower key lead-in vocal of the verse, fades down underneath the higher key start of the chorus.  As strong of a hook as it is, it’s made even stronger by the addition of backing vocalists; a trend that appears frequently on the songs that feature a build on them.

As light and dreamy as many of the songs are such as “Autumn Leaves,” “What Makes Two,” and “Resistance,” there are also moments where the band shows a good deal of grit.  “Feel So Fine” is the first one of these songs and comes in as the album’s third track.  With no drummer in the band, the group relies on drum programming to keep time.  Here, the drum machine is faster and louder, with a guitar riff to match.  Everything Archie Marvellous does on the more subdued tracks is present here in much greater force, from the backing vocals to the accordion solo.  Even on “Resistance,” the verses are very restrained but the song’s chorus has them loudly singing, “So true, so true, so true to my resistance/So true, so true, so true to what I feel…” before letting out a yelp of what sounds like frustrated pain, which is followed by a bluesy guitar solo akin to 80′s Eric Clapton.

“Down The Zambezi (Dependence Song)” is far and away the most surprising piece on the album.  If something like “Feel So Fine” was bristling with energy, this is scintillating.  Eik rips through a lyric about following someone down the Zambezi River to the tune of a thundering drumbeat and distorted guitar.  A catchy keyboard refrain establishes the melody and pops up time and again through the song’s course to maintain it.  Whether intentional or not, a track as unique as this is placed immediately after the album’s only instrumental, “Isabelle.”  Though the piece is pleasant enough with its layered guitars and warm keyboards, its not an entirely interesting piece.  It does show that Krogsrud & Teisberg can write music, but the strength remains in the vocal parts they construct regardless of the song’s tempo.

The only other weakness is that some of the song’s run for longer than they should.  Even on peppier songs like “Night Visions (Doobie Doo)” and it’s great bass line, the song begins to drag on as it goes over four minutes and approaches five.  However, between the bass, accordion, and guitar lines that play out under the harmonies, the song is really well made.  The problem of running time is greater on the slower pieces, where there’s less energy present to keep the listener involved.

Archie Marvellous is an incredibly distinct musical presence.  Best Of Krogsrud & Teisberg has just enough familiar elements to it to make it accessible but unique at the same time.  As songwriters, the two of them could tighten up some of their material a bit, but their concepts of voices, harmonies, and arrangement is near perfect.  In Ketil Eik the two of them have found a lead vocalist with a spectacular voice, well suited to singing in this kind of musical environment.  Credit must be given too to bassist Tom Erik Antonsen, keyboardist Leif Andresen, guitarist Tom Andresen, accordion player Bodil Hauger, and the numerous backing vocalists who help make this album an experience unto itself.  Archie Marvellous is very much the sum of its parts, and hearing them add up during the course of a song is one of many joys within this album.

Review by Heath Andrews
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)