There is no one named Irene in the band Irene. In fact, until recently, the band was just one guy: Tobias Isaksson, a.k.a. Bobby. But in 2005, when Isaksson wanted to play some of the songs he'd written live, he recruited some of his pub-friends from Göteborg, Sweden and what do you know? Shortly thereafter they were signed to Labrador Records and put out their first album, Apple Bay, in 2006. Now they have a new album out, Long Gone Since Last Summer, and listening to it has once again affirmed an opinion that I've long held: nothing bad ever comes out of Sweden. Seriously. I've never heard a Swedish band I didn't love...and Irene is very easy to love.
Irene write '60s beach-bum music a lá The Beach Boys, the Dave Clark Five, the Buckinghams, and so on. Their songs are short (rarely long than 3 minutes), delicious little Sweet-tarts of sound that do not mess around with long introductions or instrumental wizardry or fancy studio production (most of the instruments are recorded live, much as bands were recorded in the early days of rock). Apple Bay is only 24 minutes long but packs more weight and musical mastery than most overblown pop-rock records recorded since 1990. The songs are all catchy sing-a-long numbers featuring jangly guitars and--get this--a horn section backing up Isaksson's mellow, Elvis-esque voice. How often do you hear a horn section in any music these days?! Long Gone is simply more of the same. Irene aren't trying to break new ground here, folks: they've found a type of music that they love playing, and they do it well. You can practically hear the sunshine in the music and feel sand gritting between your toes as you listen to it.There really isn't much to say about Irene's music other than that it's great pop music that will make you feel younger no matter how old you are, and will take you back to your youth if you're old enough to remember "Surfin' Safari." I for one will have these two albums bumpin' in my stereo when I go the Atlantic City later this summer!
(The band has numerous tour dates posted on their website, but, unfortunately, the last one was on June 26--my birthday, oddly enough!)