In an attempt to curry favour with my diminutive swedish audience, I now present to you bob hund, entertaining swedish alt-rock hipsters since 1991.
Occupying the centre of a Venn diagram made up of Talking Heads, Captain Beefheart and The Rezillos they fulfil a function similar to that of The Fall in the UK, inspiring as they do equal parts blind devotion and speechless bewilderment. And in the same way that I would expect to see The Fall struggling to find a receptive audience in Norrköping, the appeal of bob hund persisted for many years in passing me by.
Until, that is, they appeared on the excellent series They Call Us Artists.
The 21st century has seen the band reaching middle age, becoming parents and moving to different cities. Not having a common base presents, naturally enough, a not insignificant logistical problem when it comes to playing gigs. Six cars filled with gear and endless arguements over who takes care of the PA.
The band resolved these problems by resorting to the rock’n’roll equivalent of inter-railing. Stepping into the unknown they mounted, in 2013, their own bob hund festival at which they appeared, not on stage, but to auction off all the band equipment. Gigs now consist of the six members arriving in the designated town and then hitting the rehearsal rooms to introduce themselves to the local bemused teenagers with a cheery “hello, we’re bob hund. Can we borrow your gear?”.
Apart, obviously, from the cost-saving advantages of such an approach it has also the effect of boosting audience numbers as said bemused teenagers turn up to make sure these hairball oddballs don’t wreck their prides and joy. “Who are we meeting first” enquires singer Thomas Öberg, a man who for many years has been inexplicably performing in a half mask. A little like a Venetian fop. “My Mothers Climax” comes the straight faced reply. After a bout of musicianly haggling we are then treated to the sight of veteran guitarist Johnny Essing staring incredulously at a borrowed Gibson Flying V slung round his hirsuit neck.
Next up, having acquainted himself with the nearest synthpop hopefuls, is keyboard player Jonas Jonasson. Leaning amiably towards the camera he confides “there are no bad synthesizers” as his rheumy eyes crinkle and his handlebar moustache twitches with joy at the discovery of the button that allows him to make gunshot sounds.
You could be forgiven for mistaking the band for camp clowns. Titles such as “The Stone Age Can Begin” and “Cheap Solutions At Any Price” may confirm your suspicion. But bob hund (yes, the lower case IS essential) continue a literary tradition of philosophy via whimsy (Kenneth Grahame, Boris Vian), a rock’n’roll tradition of climbing up PA stacks and display an admirably self-destructive talent for doing precisely the right thing at exactly the wrong moment. This, if you recall, was the band that declined to support Blur at the height of their britpoppery in order to continue their own tour of swedish sixth form colleges.
Like rock’s most notorious iconoclasts, they mean it. Maaaann!