Keep Winning

The Retardos

Goldhead Music, 2003

REVIEW BY: Chris Harlow

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/16/2005

Rooted somewhere between a frenzied punk rock output and a more straightforward rock n' roll sound, the Retardos accomplish what many other Scandinavian bands seem to be doing so well these days. That's putting out a punk n' roll album that isn't overly complex to digest and doesn't pain the ears to listen to.

Keep Winning is the Retardos' second album and reminds me of another Oslo band that disintegrated around the time this album came out -- Hellride -- with its unpretentious style of delivery. So, I guess this should explain former Hellride members Pete Evil and Pete Bosse lending some backing vocal help on this album. (I swear that I wrote the first sentence of this paragraph before I first cracked open the CD jacket to discover my uncanny knack in linking the two bands!)

Mix in the fact that the guitar tones sound as if they were magically mixed in an empty trash dumpster and the Retardos have successfully captivated that dirty rock n' roll sound that has recently propelled many recent Scandinavian bands like Gluecifer, the Peepshows, and Psychopunch into the western European rock scene's stream of current consciousness.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Another fact that always makes me smirk is the proclivity of bands from this northern region of the world to come up with souped-up stage names that aim to cement the band's image through their likeness. As if there was any doubt that even the most naive music fan couldn't figure out the punk n' roll correlation between a vocalist named Andy Apeman, a drummer named George Gorilla, and a band named the Retardos while perusing the record bin, the band finds the need to take it one step further in naming the first single "Apeman," presumably after their singer. Good thing the song doesn't disappoint, as there's a good size guitar loop protecting the primitive apeman chorus.

In looking back on the band's self-titled debut and realizing that album's spot-on punk recording, the Retardos successfully throttle back the tempo ever so slightly on the majority of songs, which turns Keep Winning into an evolved effort despite the comically juvenile tendencies I have just exposed.

This evolution is punctuated by the track "Sunshine Coming Out of my Ass" - a song that has that halted tempo, Fu Manchu-type stoner rock backline working throughout the song. I'm not sure what the motivation for recording this track might have been because it is quite the departure from anything the Retardos have done up until this point, but admittedly, it works. As a stoner-type rock track, I get equal sensations in matching boogie van images from the '70s with a realization that the Kelly Leak types from the era would embrace the lyrical content the song title propagates. Good work for a group that probably doesn't even know that Chico was ever in the bail bond business.

The rest of the album remains decidedly upbeat and is benefited by the tempo arrangements commonly associated with punk n' roll. So, I'll dish out credit in that Keep Winning is an album title prophetic for what is heard on this release -- namely 11 tracks that exhibit an honest, albeit addictive passion to make you want to hear more. The brief (30 minutes) run time may just be the one shortcoming of this release.

Rating: B+

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© 2005 Chris Harlow and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Goldhead Music, and is used for informational purposes only.