You know that crazy uncle? The one who apparently fronts some sort of sketchy 70s band? Yeah, that one. You see him at the family barbecues, usually a bit more belligerent than a man of his age should be, kind of embarrassing himself on occasion. You think, “There’s no way this dude is in a band.” Then you find yourself, against your best judgement, at one of his gigs, and you realize that whoa, he’s actually a decent singer, and he’s playing in a decent band. It goes against all instincts, but it’s true, and even though you don’t want to, you find yourself drawn to them. Well, that uncle may be none other than Johan Fahlberg, and the band may be none other than Lugnet.
The more diligent amongst you may recognize Fahlberg’s name, as he also fronts Swedish rockers Jaded Heart, a band that drove Doc Grier crazy a few years ago. He still toils with those boys, but on Nightwalker, Lugnet’s second album, he fully commits to the “70s Uncle” role, and is the star of the show. And while there’s a million retro bands out there now–so many, in fact, that we’re sick and tired of the whole thing—Lugnet manage to separate themselves from the crowd with two things: Fahlberg’s vocal chops, and the band’s ability to write catchy and varied songs. This is most evident on Nightwalker’s strongest song, the opening cut “Die For You,” which features an urgent riff, powerhouse vocals, and the best use of a cowbell since the actual 1970s.
“Begging,” and its accompanying video, also perfectly encapsulates the band. They look corny, the video is cute and cheesy, and much like the video audience, we don’t really want to like the music, but the band’s charisma (particularly Fahlberg) gets the better of us. Two songs into Nightwalker, we’re having more fun than we’ll ever admit. The riff is pure 70s, and the template for the verses is classic—and held together by the larger-than-life vocal. Possibly the best part of Nightwalker, though, is the fact that Lugnet know how much of a good thing is enough. They limit their output to eight songs, all of which stand proud on their own, none of which bore us. From the urgent opener to the lengthy closer “Kill Us All,” with mellow guitar and Mellotron leading into a sweet riff, the 42 minutes fly by.
Nitpicks are few. While Fahlberg’s Jaded Heart team deliver solid Bon Jovi-core, Lugnet are firmly in the Deep Purple/Whitesnake camp, constructing riffs and arranging songs exactly as we’d expect in the late 70s. Sharper production would have pushed this album a little higher: one thing the 70s were known for was the predominance of the snare drum in the mix—loud, and dry as hell. Lugnet go for a much more saturated sound, and like many modern albums, one can barely even hear the snare. Cranking it up and drying it out would have added to the authenticity. And while the songs are varied in pace and structure, Fahlberg never mellows out, belting out the lyrics with consistent passion. We need one generic ballad here to break things up.
Look, 70s revival rock bands aren’t for everyone, especially bad ones. Those of you who are devoted solely to bands like Gollum and the Lawn Sprinklers will find nothing redeeming here, and may want to go to your parents’ house and torch your dad’s record collection after checking out the embed. But if you’re looking for a genuinely accomplished homage to the 70s, with strong songwriting and stronger vocals, Lugnet will satisfy that itch. This crazy uncle and his band have done themselves proud.