Diablo Swing Orchestra will restore your faith in music. At a time when mainstream pop music (in the UK at least) is currently experiencing death by a thousand cuts (all of them insipid, pointless and creatively barren), Pacifisticuffs proves that passion and creativity are alive and well. With a combination of rock, swing and plenty more besides, Sweden’s Diablo Swing Orchestra have crafted a cracking fourth album.
There have been some line-up changes since 2012’s Pandora’s Piñata with the arrival of new singer Kristin Evegard and drummer Johan Norback. The band itself remains an eight-piece featuring – alongside the expected guitar, bass and drums – strings, brass and (on this album) woodwind and piano. For those unfamiliar with the band, that should give some clues as to the eclecticism contained herein.
Between the last album and this one Diablo Swing Orchestra released the single ‘Jigsaw Hustle’ which can now be found as the new album’s disco-influenced number. Two other singles have been released from this album, ‘Knucklehugs (Arm Yourself with Love)’ and ‘The Age of Vulture Culture’, and these provide the opening salvo on the album with a declaration of a lyrical path that is somewhat divergent from what’s gone before. They also introduce some of the eccentric, joyous musical motifs one would expect from the Swedish octet. ‘Knucklehugs…’ is a kind of spiritual anthem, a heart-felt paean for positive community spirit which features, of all things, a country mid-section (but of course). If Diablo Swing Orchestra don’t have you hooked by this point, then I fear you may be a lost cause.
The wide-ranging, ever-changing musical journey continues in ‘Superhero Jagganath’ which comes across all rabble-rousing, march of the people big chorus before briefly becoming a somewhat less strident – but no less engaging – waltz. It’s a song you will never tire of, whether you’re listening, singing along or even dancing in your best tux and ballgown.
Diablo Swing Orchestra’s stream of continuous creativity sees some of the album’s heaviest parts in ‘Lady Clandestine Chainbreaker’, Kristin Evegard really making her mark before the song’s satisfyingly medieval brass section conclusion.
To reveal much more detail would be to spoil all the surprises – of which there are many – but suffice it to say, no song quite travels where you expect it to and everything is engaging, challenging and very enjoyable.
Pacifisticuffs is an album you can listen to repeatedly, you can dance to, or just play at any party to astound your guests. Whatever way you choose to listen, it manages to put more creativity, surprise and musicality into each song that many lesser bands will channel throughout the whole of their careers. Well played Diablo Swing Orchestra, well played.