Wisdom of Crowds - Wisdom of Crowds

Posted on Monday, July 29, 2013

It’s a horrible life, so when your favorite singer of all time tosses a side project at you out of the blue, it’s a big deal. Let’s face it, Katatonia’s Jonas Renkse could fart in a jar and I’d buy it, proudly display it, and slap no less than a 9 on that bitch. And while Wisdom of Crowds isn’t at all what I was hoping for —I’ve always wanted Jonas to channel his inner Red House Painter, or perchance evoke Nick Drake’s ghost— it’s considerably more engaging than contained Swedish flatulence. The reason this self-titled debut often fails to live up to my reasonably high expectations is because it’s entirely the brainchild of The Pineapple Thief’s Bruce Soord. Certainly not a terrible musician by any stretch, yet anyone who’s heard the Progster’s main band knows he’s allergic to writing a memorable tune. The legendary Katatonia frontman is purely a hired gun in this case —not even contributing lyrically— although Soord has gone on record saying this material was “written with Jonas Renkse’s voice in mind.” So, at least we know the dude’s mind is occasionally in the right place. However, simplistic, laid back Electronica isn’t exactly the direction I would’ve gone in with this master of melancholy as my muse. Luckily for Soord, Renkse is a god among men, with a voice so powerful and compelling it could probably lend darkened emotional weight to “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” and these 9 tracks do offer him a bit more to work with than that. The opening tandem of “Pleasure” and “Wisdom of Crowds” sets the tone with mellow urban beats not unlike Portishead or Depeche Mode. That’s right, folks. If you’re looking for anything even remotely extreme, you’ll be highly disappointed here. The guitars rarely get heavier than, say, Radiohead (back when Radiohead actually used guitars), but Jonas still manages to save the day with hypnotic verses that begin to creep their way into your memory banks by the third spin or so. “Frozen North” might be the closest this gets to Katatonia’s mastery of the loud-quiet-loud dynamic (funky breakdown notwithstanding), and the chorus of “Stacked Naked” slightly echoes that familiar genius as well (despite it being a Techno song in disguise). Often the stark homogeneity of these Dance/Pop structures is underwhelming to say the least (see “Radio Star,” “The Light,” “The Centre of Gravity,” and “Flows Through You”), and aside from flirting-with-Shoegaze ballad “Pretend,” there’s an alarming lack of overall sadness. Nevertheless, I’ve no doubt that Jonas made the most of what he was presented —some of these simpleton lyrics are sickeningly beneath him— and it should be obvious at this point that without his otherworldly vocal presence, this material would be utterly unessential.

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