Listing RADIOHEAD as a musical influence is not out of the ordinary for many of today’s progressive rock groups, but thinking the title of one of their tunes – AIRBAG - would make a great name for this impressive five-piece band from Oslo, Norway may have been ill conceived. The term Airbag conjures up such negative connotations as that pompous blow hard with an over-inflated ego who dominates the conversation at a party; which is quite the contrary of this unpretentious melodic band. Their music is quiet, sedate, and chilled.
The current line-up consists of Asle Tostrup (vocals), Bjorn Riis (guitars & vocals), Jorgen Hagen (keyboards), Anders Hovdan (bass), and Joachim Sikker (drums).
The band lists among their major influence the groups: PINK FLOYD, PORCUPINE TREE , RADIOHEAD, TALK TALK , MARILLION, NO MAN , U2, CHROMA KEY ANATHEMA, BLACKFIELD, and David Sylvian. And in many cases they outshine their musical counterparts.
To my ears the band bears a remarkable similarity to final chapter of the PINK FLOYD era scans Roger Waters … “A Momentary Lapse Of Reason” and “The Division Bell”, as well as David Gilmore’s post-Floyd solo album “On An Island”; with distinct traces of the Steven Wilson side-project NO MAN and the sedate ballads found on the PORCUINE TREE album “The Sky Moves Sideways”.
Unfortunately the major strength of this chilled-out progressive unit is also their inherent weakness.
Each individual atmospheric soundscape is masterfully arranged and produced, taking listeners on a soothing journey into the cosmic void, yet the album on a whole never deviates from the singular mood set by the very first tune. So with no variations from one tune to the next each ballad blends into a musical blur, with nothing to distinguish one track from the next. The very chilled nature of the collective compositions puts the listener into a melancholy Prozac trance. And at no time does the band expend enough energy or up-tempo aural variety to revive us from this musically induced state of melancholia.
Yet that having been said, each individual song contains all the classic progressive rock elements that make for a memorable track … the ambient soundscape of soothing keyboards, fluid guitar work, and soulful vocals; and above all … beautiful melodic compositions, solid arrangements, and brilliant production value.
So once again I find myself in a quandary when forced to grade a recording on a 1 out of 10 rating scale. Do I rate the album on the strength of the individual songs – or as a whole? And should variety and energy level even be part of the final equation? After all it doesn’t require a seismologist and Richter Scale to measure the strength of an album … its ear, gut, and personal preference.
So I’ll make this easy on myself by recommending the album to fans of PINK FLOYD, RPWL, and PORCUPINE TREE , and rate the album:
- Individual Songs: 9 out of 10 rating
- Album As A Whole: 7 out of 10 rating
This is music to listen to after a long busy day at work to gently bring you back down to Earth and soothe your frazzled nerves.
Reviewed by Joseph Shingler on December 19th, 2009