Arre! Arre!—𝙒𝙚 𝙍𝙞𝙙𝙚 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙐𝙣𝙞𝙫𝙚𝙧𝙨𝙚—𝙋𝙉𝙆𝙎𝙇𝙈
Earlier this year, PNKSLM released the fourth LP from Arre! Arre! titled We Ride The Universe, and folks, it’s really good. The group self-identifies as “Dirty punks from the south,” Malmö, Sweden. The “dirty punks” are Katja Nielson, Lidia Damunt, Matilda Årestad, and Totta Edlund.
When Arre! Arre! won the prestigious “Rock Album Of the Year” award at the Swedish P3 Guld Awards for 2019’s Tell Me All about Them, they inadvertently became either the most loved or most hated rock band in Sweden, after they used the majority of their acceptance speech mooning the cameras on live national TV, while simultaneously daring to critique a certain local nazi-sympathazing politician. A handful of Twitter’s “Blue Check” profiles were outraged and disgusted, whilst the insulted sexist teenage degenerates took to the YouTube comment sections to engage in discourse and portray their side of the issues that arose. “I don’t pay my public TV license to be subjected to seeing these f***ing left-wing fat asses” one of the many traumatized victims eloquently disclosed.
To calm the death threats and diffuse the tensions sweeping the nation, Arre! Arre! promptly released the single “Me & My Fat Ass Friends”, the first taste of 2020’s Heavy Breathing, a five track EP with a very proud and unashamed theme of sexuality running heavily throughout. Punk-purists might claim the acceptance-speech hubbub is rather tame, but seeing the band lean-in to an overhyped controversy and make some solid music out of it is refreshingly commendable.
Fast forward to 2021, and a global pandemic slightly finally shifts focus somewhat for the digital elite from Arre! Arre! to other pressing matters of 5G, Chinese bats & vaccine conspiracies. With touring off the menu, the band found themselves with more time than expected to focus on We Ride The Universe.
Returning long-time collaborator Joakim Lindberg helmed production on WRTU. This relationship has allowed the band to not only maintain their core inspiration from the ‘90s riot grrrl scene, but concurrently broaden their sound to include a wider range of influences—from post-punk and ‘60s ballads, to James Brown, to the Spice Girls.
As usual, the album has a strong underlying theme throughout—this time of motorbikes and female biker gangs, with the band even going to the extreme of recording local bikers driving around outside Lindberg’s studio to sample within the tracks. Combined with other new production quirks such as ABBA-inspired choirs and galloping percussion, WRTU turned into a markedly cohesive and unique album.
Opening number “Ride Or Die” finds the band chanting their name to kick-off the chorus. Could this be to let listeners know that by their fourth record, there shouldn’t be any reason why we can’t pronounce their name with the rolling “R”’s? In fact, the first words uttered on the record are “Arre! Arre!”. Think Lil Wayne introducing himself with the ad-lib “Tunechi” before going-in, as it were.
Title track “We Ride The Universe” serves as a mission statement with calm, collected energy that builds to the verge of exploding and oozing into chaos, but never does. This tension could be chalked-up to the scuzzed out garage punk vocals inherent in much of the PNKSLM discography. This generates a rough-around-the-edges effect, while Katja Nielson’s singing is quite beautiful.
The vocals on “Midnight Rider” could be mistaken for the sharp and sultry delivery of Shannon Shaw from “& the Clams” fame, or even Elle King.
“Lovers Town” has background doo-wop singing that contributes to a sense of Rockabilly class. This kind of thing is the reason why punk rock can be intergenerational by accident.
“Good Cop? Bad Cop?” is the most socio-political track on the album, and chiefly the most traditional punk-song on WRTU. A bubble-burster by illuminating listeners abroad of rampant police brutality inherent in much of Europe. Creating a sense-of-solidarity with punks an ocean away who also live in a country diseased by an often racist, often militarized police force.
The following “Crazy Ex Girlfriend” is in the grrrl hrrrl pocket and is reminiscent of All Hands on the Bad One-era Sleater-Kinney.
Closer “May the Road Rise to Meet You” is a proper sign-off, bestowing well-wishes on the listener and reminding them that “[they’re] never alone”.
Bonus track “Time For Some Mayhem” is just under two-minutes of chugging grrrl hrrrl goodness that has one wondering how much cool music this group has ahead of them and/or stored in the digital coffers.
The melodic and intense Arre! Arre! turned-in an all-killer no-filler album with We Ride The Universe. Anyone who engages with the music and enjoyed it on some level has already joined the Scandes/universe-traversing Anarcha-Feminist biker-gang.