It’s always fascinating how some bands will find huge success in their home countries that just doesn’t translate worldwide. Sure, bands especially from the UK or US have ties to their own homegrown scenes that aren’t reciprocated around the world, but with a band like Johnossi, the platinum-selling Swedish duo who’ve won multiple Grammys in their home country and have snagged high-profile support slots with Green Day, remain unknown on a global level.
That can probably be explained by the fact that their new EP Air Is Free is their first international release as their sound certainly isn’t a factor, falling somewhere between The Black Keys and newer Mumford And Sons with bits of The White Stripes and maybe Awolnation thrown in for good measure.
And for the meagre evidence present on this release – three tracks and a remix – what they offer isn’t bad, a small slice of unquestionably commercial indie that’s a bit rougher around the edges to emphasise that rock pull. And while Air Is Free does feel like a disjointed collection of each element of Johnossi’s sound isolated on a song of its own, the individual songs stand well enough on their own so to not to be completely objectionable. There’s a fairly brooding stomp to the title track with its ramshackle guitars accentuated by the deep bed of horns, the rudimentary, Royal Blood-style guitar rumble on Weak Spots with hints of cowbell and piano makes for a chunkier, more grounded sound, and Alone In The Summer plays it a lot more understated with a prominent haze obscuring very gentle guitars and percussion.
There’s not really a bad song on this EP (even including the remix of the title track which is more superfluously forgettable than outright terrible), though there’s nothing really here that would suggest Johnossi’s native superstar status. But that’s really to be expected – there’s not a lot that can be done with three tracks, and at least Air Is Free shows Johnossi do have some songwriting chops. Whether they can sustain enough momentum to be a crossover worldwide success remains to be scene – there are already plenty of slightly more organic indie bands around and Johnossi would have to overtake a lot of them for any real commercial viability – but building on what they have here on a full-length album would be interesting if nothing else.
For fans of: The Black Keys, Arctic Monkeys, Kings Of Leon
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Air Is Free’ by Johnossi is released on 8th November on Polydor Records / Universal Records.