This is what the press have to say about album Good Karma Café:
Rock & Reel Magazine
On their first visit to the UK this Stockholm quartet backed Sid Griffin on a set of Long Ryders songs at a “paisley underground” celebration. They can count a number of figures from that mid-80´s movement as fans and Green on Red organist Chris Cacavas even guests on this, their debut album.
So it´s clear where the band´s hearts lie and who they might appeal to. But such is the quality of the songs and musicianship here that there really is a lot more that they have to offer. Frontman Håkan “Hawk” Soold has a slightly unusual voice, a rich croon that instantly sets them aside from the field of Americana copyists. Rather, it gives the band a refreshing, icy European sound, as on the Bunnymanish “Suicide Bomber”.
Hawk is no slouch on guitar either, his crisply twanging licks creating a magical atmosphere against the wintry reverbdrenched backdrop. The chiming, descending chord pattern and freak-out guitar coda on “There´s Wind On The Moon” is sheer life-affirming delight, guaranteed to bring tears to the eyes of men of a certain age. Terrific.
Bucketfull of Brains
The Plastic Pals, a four-piece from Stockholm, led by the energetic and enthusiastic Hakon ”Hawk” Sooldt, come roaring out of the traps with a dual guitar attack, and a nigh close to perfect instinct for all that´s right about rock `n´ roll. They are unashamedly based on a Groovies/Powerpop/Paisley template and they deliver the goods with unerring accuracy. It´s no wonder that Chris Cacavas can be found playing along here, and that Sid Griffin chose them to be his Plastic Ryders for the recent Paisley celebration.
Across ten tunes here there´s a continuous drive and variety. Hawk´s voice suggests an earthy, rootsy personality. His always intriguing lyrics are presented with a clarity that let´s every word be heard, though this is a band that´s never reticent about allowing the guitars to do the talking. Exuberant opener ”Here Comes The Sun” definitely sets the stall out and before you´ve got over the thrill of that the exciting intro to ”She´s Going Back” has you hooked all over again.
That´s how it continues. ”Long And Lonely” may be something of a slower lament, and the title track, an almost-ballad carrying a deep undercurrent of loss and regret, but we´re never far from a rolling highway. And like all the best Steve Wynn records, in some respects it´s just a taster. There´s a melange of sound at the end of ”There´s Wind On The Moon” that live coukld expand into a frenzy as fine as anything the Miracle 3 might come up with.
Essentially then a collection of classic guitar songs anchored by a rare pop intelligence, seldom found these days but always very welcome.
The Next Big Thing
This is as a consistently good melting pot of influences as I’ve heard in recent times. I’ll leave you to determine who or what these are but will add my consideration that Häkan’s vocal reminds me of Ian McNabb of The Icicle Works. “She’s Going Back” was the one that sealed that comparison being that I always thought it would be cool if The Del Lords covered “Understanding Jane”.
There really is a neo-Liverpool sound to this Stockholm combo that sets this set aside from much of the psychedelic pop that is mane under laboratory conditions to a business plan. The Pals manage to circumnavigate all that with what is obviously a passion to simply create bloody good songs and see where those lead ‘em.
If you heard one of these cuts on the radio then whichever one it was, you’d want to know who it was. Those guitars are utterly infectious as they jangle and pummel, sometimes simultaneously. If what goes around does indeed come around then their music will take them far.
Defining a band as “power-pop” always seems to be damning it with faint praise, for now matter how sophisticated its manifestation, there is something inescapably lightweight about the appellation. The Plastic Pals are a case in point, for despite the fact that they even refer to themselves as power-pop, they are far more interesting than that term would suggest, blending psychedelia, alt-country, garage rock, and post punk into their robust sound. There are especially hints of the Paisley Underground and it is thus entirely natural that erstwhile Green On Red keyboardist Chris Cacavas guests on a couple of tracks.
Yet whilst the Plastic Pals wear their influences on their sleeve, they successfully shape them into their own image and although there might not be a great deal of originality on display here, they are never unimaginatively derivative. Opener Here Comes the Sun is a perfect example of their ability to produce vibrant and visceral songs which tap straight into rock’s collective unconscious. With the exception of the alt-country leanings of the title track and the more overtly post-punk Suicide Bomber, many of the songs conform to this same pattern and whilst it might grow a little predictable over the course of the album, it is impossible to dispute their facility for the template.
Throughout, Häkan Soold proves that he is a forceful, distinctive vocalist and despite the Swedish origins of the band, there are none of the problems with diction which so often plague those singing in a second language. Mention must also be made of the guitar work of Soold and Anders Sahlin. The latter’s leads on songs such as The Best Kept Secret or Long and Lonely are a glorious combination of wiry and melodic, often recalling the work of Chuck Prophet. The fact that guitar solos are such a prominent feature of the band’s sound is a testament to their rock classicism and when they engage with that tradition so successfully, it is difficult to complain.
Reviewers Rating: 8/10
Whisperin & Hollerin
Eateries have played as significant part in the evolution of rock’n’roll as the more ubiquitous sex and drugs over the years. Barney’s Beanery in Los Angeles often kept Jim Morrison going when he forgot which motel he was staying at; The Clash met for a provocative egg on toast each morning while they were rehearsing the songs for ‘London Calling’ and up in Liverpool the local common denominator was the infamous Brian’s cafe where the late Bunnymen drummer Pete De Freitas was reputed to have managed four full breakfasts one morning. And his skill behind the kit sure as hell didn’t diminish.
Cracking Swedish power popsters THE PLASTIC PALS, though, have taken the concept one stage further with their debut album, ‘Good Karma Cafe’, which is named after a sadly defunct, but hugely popular drop-in eaterie aimed at servicing the culinary requirements of travelling musicians passing through McComb, Southern Mississippi. The romance of this little joint in the middle of nowhere which cared enough to try and make things happen was more than enough to fire the imagination of Plastic Pals’ frontman Hakan ‘Hawk’ Soold: a man who knows a thing or three about the wide open spaces and truckstops fleshing out John Steinbeck’s novels.
Excellent though it is, however, the song ‘Good Karma Cafe’ – when taken on its’ own – is enough to sell you something of a dummy where The Plastic Pals are concerned. It’s a gorgeously wistful, Americana-tinged affair with plenty of space for guest Jason Shogren’s regal pedal steel to waft around and some notably lonesome Neil Young-style harmonica. But while it’s a great, moving tribute, it’s by no means the be-all and end-all of Pals’ sonic lore.
Indeed – along with the crackly and lo-fi closer ‘Let’s Pretend This Isn’t True’ – the title track is one of the few places where The Plastic Pals’ adherence to beefy and intelligent power-pop lets up. Opener ‘Here Comes The Sun’ (no, not that one) is far truer to the record’s ideal: bursting with vitality and crunching Mod-pop energy without feeling the need to wear a Target T-shirt, it signals the opening of a fine, wholly consistent two guitars, bass and drums record which is cut from durable rock’n’roll cloth without ever sounding horribly derivative.
Much of what follows is equally gritty, disciplined and impassioned. Crunching rockers like ‘There’s Wind On The Moon’, ‘Gone With The Wind’ and ‘Shadow Of A Doubt’ nod towards tough’n’tender favourites from both side of the pond from Television to The Godfathers and prime Elvis Costello but ultimately refuse to sound like anything other than The Plastic Pals on fire on their own terms.
Clearly, The Pals are a fabulous unit. The rhythm section are guy-rope tight, but still swing with the best of ’em; frontman Soold has a commanding set of lungs on him and oozes presence throughout and in guitarist Anders Sahlin (I’m assuming he’s responsible) they have a real star-in-waiting. I’d begun to think the classic lead guitarist was a virtually extinct breed these days, but clearly no-one told Sahlin who proceeds to peel off solos full of the kind of flash and elegance that even The Only Ones’ John Perry would be proud of on songs like ‘Gone With The Wind’, ‘There’s Wind On The Moon’ and the quality, slow burning ballad ‘Long & Lonely’.
The other thing that really sets The Plastic apart is Soold’s skill as a lyricist. Occasionally, he conjures up a neo-psychedelic mysticism, as on ‘Gone With The Wind’ (“a sea burst through the park and a clipper made the scene/ it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen”) which recalls the cosmic oddness of The Ramones’ ‘Highest Trails Above’, but mostly his observations whether personal (‘Best Kept’s Secret”s vivid and hearbreaking observations of death) or political (the darkly topical ‘Suicide Bomber’) are both effective and memorable. And when they’re allied to The Pals’ magnificent sonic fire power they’re clearly onto a winner.
‘Good Karma Cafe’, then, is an establishment of finesse and taste. Whether it will become a widespread stopping-off point on the rock’n’roll map remains to be seen, but its’ menu is scrumptious and the proprietors are good enough to wow all-comers from Mississippi to Malmo. I’d recommend heading in for a late breakfast and staying awhile when the opportunity arises as you may well find yourself becoming a regular.
Reviewers grading: 9/10
Nöjesguiden (Swedish entertainment magazine)
If Håkan Soold had been Englishman or American, he would have belonged to a chosen group of internationally recognised, but very modestly selling cult heroes. With his high quality and partially psychedelic rock, his limber guitar strands almost at the level of Tom Verlaine, and his habile voice quite close to Ian McNabb (consider that a recommendation!), he should be sorted with just that kind of artists, together with Richard Lloyd, Chris Spedding and Matthew Sweet.
His background in the classic band Dom Dummaste, whose Lars Cleveman makes a guest performance here, would have contributed to the cult, while guests like Green On Red’s Chris Cacavas would have been a little something for all the experts.
However, Håkan Soold and his Plastic Pals aren’t Englishmen or Americans, but Swedish, and that makes the cult almost negligibly small. Still, whoever find The Plastic Pals in some way, should be congratulated!
Hailing from stockholm, The Plastic Pals debut long player is a powerhouse of guitar-drenched power-pop. featuring stellar guest Chris Cacavas (Green on Red) on organ and taking cues from the likes of the Flamin Groovies, Dream Syndicate and Gun Club, this is soulful, driving music, with as much melody as muscle.
Kool Kat Musik
We loved their EP! Their debut long player delivers on the EP’s promise /…/ Shadow Of A Dream” has a guitar riff that reminds us of Buffalo Springfield’s “Rock and Roll Woman”! “Suicide Bomber” has a kind of early Teardrop Explodes feel to it! EXCELLENT!!!
Here you have a Swedish band who plays a groovy sort of retro rock with garage-flirts all over. And they’re doin’ it really good with a lot of help from the producer Björn Öqvist who’ve worked with SpaceAge Baby Jane and Pennebaker mentioning two.
Third out – the cool and softer “Long And Lonely” is one winner and the rocker “The Best Kept Secret” that smells Television a long way is another one (with Chris Cacavas from Green On Red as a guest).
Television is one name to mention when you compare the band to others… I would also wanna mention The Strokes, a young and horny Costello and Velvet Underground if they would have been focused on melodies instead of drugs. A really well done filet of music.
Reviewers grading: 3,5/5
“A couple of months ago The Plastic Pals released their debut album “Good Karma Café”. A solid, exciting rock and powerpop album with a collection of strong tracks with The Plastic Pals’ own special sound. It feels like great retro mixture molded into something new. I get so many associations to this that I find it hard to tell them apart into some kind of description.
Sixties pop, psychadelia, Blue Öyster Cult, Television, and yes it feels clean and rough at the same time. I really love the vocals from Håkan Soold, which adds a lot of soul to the music and keeps everything together. A really good album that grows each time I listen to it.”