Words by Brian Salvatore
Soldiers of Fortune is a band made up of indie rock guys embracing the classic rock of their childhood radio stations. This sounds like an opportunity for winking and smirking, but the wink and smirk of this record is that there is none of that. This isn’t the Darkness – there’s nothing they find funny about these songs.
That said, it also isn’t played totally straight. The band famously doesn’t write or rehearse; they gather in the studio, jam, and then cut it down later. Made up of luminaries from bands like Chavez, Interpol, Endless Boogie, and Oneia, the band turns everything up, foregoes dynamic shifts, and just rocks in one setting, one song at a time.
This is the type of record that works on a few levels – on one hand, this would probably go over pretty well at a teenage summer party in a Hollywood film about a teenage summer party, soundtracking beer pong, skinny dipping, and jocks and nerds discovering they aren’t that different after all. But on the other, it is a metatextual conversation on what rock and roll is, on ironic enjoyment versus actual enjoyment, on whether a tongue in the cheek somehow renders something less meaningful.
Musically, it is closest in DNA to Endless Boogie, which shares guitarist Jesper Eklow with Soldiers of Fortune, in that it partially replicates the groove and trappings of southern rock, but without Endless Boogie’s kraut-rock influence, and dialing back the Southernness as well. In writing this, I realize how much this must sound like journalistic bullshit – Southern rock minus the South, etc. But I actually think that the band represents an important shift in rock music, that few other bands have attempted.
This is context-less music. It simply is what it is. It doesn’t mean anything; it doesn’t have a grand design of any kind. The record exists for the record to exist. Sure, the album has Stephen Malkmus, Cass McCombs and more guesting, but that doesn’t really matter either.
Soldiers of Fortune call themselves an ‘anti-band,’ but I’d alter that description slightly: they’re a band that is anti-career. They live in the moment in a glorious way – they do what many of us wish we could do more effectively. There was, more than likely, no moment on the record where anything other than the quality of the song was considered. No merchandising, no singles, no theme or arc or greater meaning. Just loud guitars, pounding drums, thumping bass, and the sort of shrieks of the vocal chords that can only signal one thing: rock and roll.
© November 6th, 2015
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