Graveyard is a band best heard in passing. Imagine you’re downtown at night, strolling past some dive bar that would be unappealing if not for the sounds coming from inside: bluesy and urgent, with a certain understanding of a time you never knew. Your curiosity is piqued. You walk in, buy a drink, and find a place to stand to enjoy the show. Four guys are up on stage with what first seems like the intention to play fast, get paid, and get out, but as their set goes on, their pace slows, and they begin to bare their souls and their love for the music. At points, it all may seem played out and just a little bit too familiar, but there are overlapping moments on Innocence & Decadence, the Swedish band’s fourth album, when the music not only draws your attention, but provokes your thoughts as to why it all works the way it does.
At first listen, Graveyard is a band steeped in late ’60s nostalgia. On pop-leaning tracks like “The Apple & the Tree”, you might mistake them for Cream. On the heavier and more brooding tracks, like “Can’t Walk Out”, they’re The Doors. Jonatan Ramm’s riffs sound like they’ve never seen the light of the 21st century, and Joakim Nilsson’s voice drips with whiskey.
Where you might feel like you’ve gotten a pretty good grasp of their sound after “The Apple & the Tree”, the album’s second song, you might be tempted to leave, especially because the next one sounds like all the energy in the room has been extinguished. Stick around, though, because the sleeper ballad “Exit 97” is the best track Innocence & Decadence has to offer. Nilsson’s mournful vocals sulk through a damp and steady rainfall of snares and hi-hats before organ greets his misery and gets him swinging from lampposts like some nihilistic Gene Kelly. It’s a soulful act that can reach the lonesome blues in anyone’s heart. It’s comforting, it’s familiar — it’s comforting because it’s familiar. And when you take a look at Graveyard’s discography, you’ll find that any sort of enjoyment of their music derives from that very nostalgia.
That can be problematic. Music like Graveyard’s, so heavily nostalgic for a time nearly half a century gone, can only be enjoyed for what it is. Quality can only get you so far when you forgo innovation in favor of remembering the good ol’ days. Of course, it’s any artist’s prerogative to be inspired by whatever they like, so it’s no serious detriment to Graveyard’s satisfactory body of work. The fast-paced, nearly headbang-worthy energy in tracks like “Never Theirs to Sell”, “From a Hole in the Wall”, and “Hard Headed” is undeniable, while the slow-rolling drawl of tracks like “Too Much Is Not Enough” and “Far Too Close” keeps the heart and passion of Innocence & Decadence burning. It still remains, though, that active fans may be left underwhelmed and wanting more. So, while you’ll likely be tapping your foot and nodding your head, you might also be wrestling with the fact that none of this is new.
Graveyard has the allure of an artifact from some bygone era, and they’re all the better in the sense that the artifact is very much living and breathing. The band is good at doing what they’ve set out to do, and when it comes down to what matters, all parties involved — musicians and listeners alike — will surely enjoy themselves. When the band is done playing, though, with the stage struck and crowd dispersed, you’ll find yourself outside the bar greeting the cool night air, and in those first few breaths, you’ll catch yourself wondering about all the possibilities yet to be explored.
Essential Tracks: “The Apple & the Tree”, “Exit 97”, and “Too Much Is Not Enough”