It's Brad's fault that I like this album. When he first put it on, I dismissively said, "Sounds Swedish," and went back to doing whatever it was that I was doing. It was meant as more of an insult than a compliment, since I was thinking of ABBA at the time. So even when Brad discerned that the Moonbabies are, in fact, Swedish, I didn't really give it a second thought.
A couple days later, we're on our way to class and Brad says something like, "I'm really starting to like this album." I didn't even know what it was, since I'm usually too busy thinking my own thoughts to notice what he puts in the c.d. player. (After all, he's the musician and I'm the writer. When he has nothing else to do, he listens; when I have nothing else to do, I think.) But I decided it was unfair to compare it to ABBA and then went back to my own thoughts. Several more days later and he's playing it while we do homework. He's probably played it a few times since the moment in the car, but for some reason, I notice it and ask what it is, thinking that it's catchy and intriguing. This is a common scenario, mind you. If I think of all of my favorite bands, I thought they were a bit crap at first, but for some reason either was forced or chose to give them a second chance and realized how good they were.
Why am I telling you this? Because I want you to give Moonbabies a second chance. Yes, they often sound like music for a Wrigley's gum commercial at first (you know, the one with all the creepy identical twins), but they have more substance than that. The more I learn about Swedes, the more I learn that one should never take them at face value; there is always more to them than you see, or hear, at first. Especially with the Moonbabies, the initial impression I got of charming simplicity gave way to curiosity of what they were really trying to convey once I listened to the album more.
For one, the music itself sounds really cheery at first but actually hides complex layers of irony. You simultaneously want to be part of this magical musical world they're creating and wonder what unheard-of monsters are waiting there. It's like that moment when you first realize you are losing your innocence. It's poignant; sad in some way but fulfilling in another, since ignorance is a horrible state to get comfortable in. In other words, this is pop music, but it isn't American pop music. With the careful addition of idiosyncracies in otherwise typically indie music, the Moonbabies make songs that get stuck in your head but don't make you feel like you've lost brain cells. In fact, I feel like I'm exercising my brain by listening to them. Each one is so intricately instructed, it feels incredibly personal. "The Orange Billboard" sounds so much like two people saying goodbye, it gives me chills. But it isn't a sad song like you might expect. The light sounds of the instrument contradict this feeling so that you can still feel the hope that they will see each other again someday. Yet they also have songs like "Forever Changes Everything Now", which sounds like a cheesy love song in a way but doesn't fall into the trap of affirming that with stupid cliches.
There is also the fact that they write good songs. Their accents may obscure what they are singing occasionally, but they are adept lyricists. As sweet and sugary as Moonbabies sound at first, if you listen closely, you'll hear lyrics like "You can't smell the dirt until they crap on your lawn" in "Fieldtrip USA", or the opening lines of "Summer Kids Go": "You smell my fear through the telephone/ Staring down my throat." Usually, when I hear a band like this whose first language isn't English, I have to give them a little credit for writing in a language they aren't native to, but I make no such concessions for the Moonbabies. They know what they're doing.
In short, this album is spectacular, and I love it more each time I listen to it. Don't be driven away by its candy-coating; there are finer things on the inside. 9/10 -- Eden Hemming Rose (25 May, 2005)