When Millencolin released their last studio album Machine 15 in 2008 it was somewhat of a departure from previous material and there was a quiet rumbling of concern amongst some of the Millencolin faithful. Not that it was a bad record, far from it, but Millencolin had previously done such a good job of winning people over with their contagious brand of raw and melodic punk rock that Machine 15‘s bigger sound didn’t quite settle with the same ease as other offerings had; and while you cannot blame a band for exploring their sound, the question was asked by some if that was to be the new direction for our favourite Swedish punkers.
7 long years have passed since the release of Machine 15, though the band have been far from lazily twiddling their thumbs. In that time there were a couple of years touring Machine 15, there were anniversary shows for the classic and much loved Pennybridge Pioneers which eventually and quite rightly evolved into a world tour, the playing of a 20th anniversary festival in their honour where they played two completely different 25 song sets; and all of that without mentioning the year and a half it actually took to write and record the new album True Brew.
Before the songs of True Brew are discussed there are a few things worth mentioning in regards to Millencolin. Firstly, when the band began 23 years, seven albums and approximately 1500 live shows ago, it consisted of four friends brought together by their love of the genre, and all that time later the band still comprises of the same four friends continuing to shape that very same genre that inspired them. Not only that but Millencolin are the definitive organic punk band. True Brew was self-recorded by the band, produced by Nikola Sarcevic (vocals/bass) and Mathias Färm (guitar) and all band artwork and photography is and always has been done in-house by Erik Ohlsson (other guitar). In fact, the band’s launch video for the superb anti-racism anthem ”Sense & Sensibility” was also the work of Ohlsson (although be prepared, if you suffer from car/van sickness, keep your finger hovering over that pause button), Millencolin are an example of an established band who undoubtedly put the ‘Do It Yourself’ in D.I.Y.
As soon as True Brew begins with ”Egocentric Man” it’s clear that the band have returned to their much loved punk roots, and by second track, the superbly catchy pop rock blast of ”Chameleon”, all potential cobwebs have been blown away. There are a few songs on True Brew whose short, sharp and technical melodic style tip the cap to bands like Bad Religion but none more so that the previously mentioned opener as well as the third track ”Autopilot Mode”, these songs were simply made to be heard live! Next up is the pop punk gem ”Bring You Home”, which has been on near constant repeat in this household such is its immediacy, and if by force of death a favourite track had to be chosen from True Brew, that would be it. Lead single ”Sense & Sensibility”, a song that covers the unfortunate rise of right wing nationalism in Sweden, is effervescent in its disdain; Sarcevic bellowing out the words: ”You’re just a racist clown to me”. We’re definitely in agreement with you there, Nikola!
Millencolin have never been afraid to sing about things that concern them (racism/bullying) and the album’s title track lyrically concentrates on life and the importance of living it and not getting swept away by the what ifs and negativity. A standout lyric states: ”Some say that nothing lasts forever, but no-one knows what happens when you die, so if this is all there is it’s now or never, life’s too short to not give it a try” Wise words indeed, you cannot beat a bit of positive and life-affirming punk rock! The second half of the album isn’t quite as immediate as the first but there is not a bad song on True Brew. Each track has something a little more to offer on each repeat listen. ”Something I Would Die For” is another pop nugget with a reverberating chorus and the album’s closer ”Believe In John” will undoubtedly be a future fan’s favourite and is a fitting closer to the album.
In True Brew, Millencolin have released one of the albums of their careers, and although it would be a big ask to place it above Pennybridge Pioneers, it isn’t too far behind, if at all! Pennybridge Pioneers is the classic album that launched the band onto the worldwide punk stage, full of songs still being reciprocally sung back to them wherever they play in the world; True Brew may not prove to have the same career impact but it certainly has the songs to match it!
If you’re already a fan of Millencolin then simply immerse yourself in a fantastic and true return to form, and if you are new to the band, don’t be too hard on yourself, just enjoy an album from a band truly at its peak. In a way True Brew has been 23 years in the making, and it shows!
4.5 / 5 Stars