The zeitgeist is a fanciful bastard at the best of times, yet the Noughties’ wildly derided mainstream indie movement was, to these ears, simply a decent broth spoiled by too many cocks. Even the Kate Jackson-fronted Long Blondes, a pimply, Meyer-referencing beacon of intelligence and feminine glamour, were technically in thrall to predominant songwriter, the entire male Dorian Cox. Perhaps fearing effeminacy, the negligible components of that whole movement (I am aware it ’moved’ nowhere, pedants) churned out pifflism after recycled pifflism, refusing to admit they were effectively scrawling cartoon penises on a three decade old canvas covered with increasingly blurred drawings of cartoon penises. There is an avalanche of reasons our friends Razika - who, to avoid missing school, laid down Program 91 at weekends - are wholly distinct from that lot, but let’s start with the most pressing: they are from Norway, they are 19 and they have, vitally, not a bollock between them.
Annoyingly, this promising debut is a thing of such utter and ruddy brilliance it feels at once irresponsible to get carried away with praise and uppity to proffer anything so improbable as a perceived shortcoming. The record cuts a preposterously neat line in chanty sweetheart hooks - half sung in joyful, bouncy English, half irresistible Norwegian - and insistently reminds the more haggard of frame that the group are everything losers like you wanted to be as a teenager: smart, successful, and both of these applied in the field of pop music. Like precious few of their kind they come sailing in on an ocean of seemingly-no-hype-whatsoever, armed with a lunchbox full of boundless shoot-for-the-heart indie pop and wise and wide-eyed clamour. It’s not far off the mark to think Razika a charming child bride, endearingly selfish and myopic, to The Wedding Present’s weary, cynical groom. ‘Nytt Pa Nytt’s tales of tediously inebriated turpitude rattle in the clatter of some mad Balkan ska that sounds like The Specials chasing someone’s dogs around a midnight gypsy-fairground, while ‘Youth’ sweetly spits Orange Juice between the puckered lips of righteous ragged teenhood. Again: ruddy brilliant.
It’s a shame this jangly indie kinda thing has had such a bad rap of late, because the inclination here is to suck up the slaver in case they come back with something ’properly good’ a couple of years down the line, like, when they’ve ’grown up’ - both po-face terms to be immediately struck from the self-appointed pop-critic’s lexicon, sure. But as Program 91 soars over - here we go - fjords of excellence, it never really lands or takes off with any satisfying oomph. Not to be the monocled wanker scrawling sniffy ’needs work’s and ’see me’s in red biro in the loveable star pupils’ margins, but I think it’s worth holding fire a few years before we decide to ship off Arctic Monkeys and smuggle in Razika and see if anyone these days gives a pigeon’s beak about anything, let alone music, quite enough to notice we’ve elevated a bunch of bilingual Scandi-popsters to being new national sweethearts. But we should definitely do that at some point, if and when the time comes, ’cause we could surely do with their right-headed and right-on guidance.
7Jazz Monroe's Score