Good Times by Mando Diao

Release date: May 12, 2017
Label: BMG

3 years ago, the four lads in Mando Diao made an abrupt left-turn in their musical career. After a decent run of successful releases as an alternative rock band with a throwback Beatles tinge, the switch to a Synthpop and New-Wave driven record was all the more surprising given that it came no sooner than seven albums into their discography. Three years after the release of the polarising and daring Aelita, the Swedish quartet marks its return with twelve new tracks; a new record innocently titled Good Times.

Whether you’re a fan of the bands’ work on their previous record or one of the disappointed ones, Good Times sees the band steering in the right direction and easing into a comfortable balance between the old and the new. Taking a slight step back into known territory, the new record erases the clumsy experimentations of its predecessors, harnessing its strong points and fusing them together with what the band has shown to do best as a rock band. The bands’ sound is reinvigorated with the return of its rock edge, with the synth elements and extra arrangements adding a funky kick to tracks like the single ‘Shake’, ‘Money’ or the title track.

Aside from a couple of misfires like the downright obnoxious ‘Dancing all the Way to Hell’, the new sounds on Good Times make for some refreshing and effective numbers. The tail end of the record namely features some of the records most interesting moments such ‘Voices on the Radio’ with its vocoder vocals or the album closer, a soothing song that sounds almost like something you’d hear off a Nick Drake record. With a sharp production toggling between slick dance music and rawer takes on the acoustic ballads, the band escapes the pitfall of overproduced sounds and maintain a certain amount of liveliness in their studio performance.

As one can expect from a Swedish artist, Mando Diao hit hard and line up one catchy hook after the next delivered through impeccable performances, most notably that of frontman Björn Dixgård, whose raspy, powerful vocals soar magnificently throughout the record. By taking a slight step back and learning from past mistakes, Mando Diao reconnect with their original sound in order to better steer their newfound ambitions into towards a more mature sound. Good Times doesn’t exactly reinvent the wheel, but it is a fun, instantly gratifying listen. As horrid as its album art may look, Mando Diao’s eighth record is solid record that has a lot to offer to both fans and newcomers.

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