Once in a while a band comes along that sweeps people off their feet through sheer talent and charisma. Swedish glam-rockers the Ark have attracted a small but religiously committed group of American fans who are sure to embrace “Prayer For the Weekend,” their fourth album.
The Swedish glam-rock sextet have been churning out a string of hits and number-one albums since 2000 and have cult-like followings in many parts of Europe. With “Prayer For The Weekend,” the Ark has moved beyond 1970s glam-rock influences and developed a more mature style of glam-disco, neatly steeped in a classic art deco design.
All 11 tracks on the album are written by lead singer Ola Salo, the flamboyant son of a priest, born and raised in Rottne, which is a small town in the foresty heartland of southern Sweden. Salo, 30, is a natural talent and performer who has sung in musicals and recently composed a symphonic poem for orchestra and choir entitled “Linnaeus Rex.”
With the fourth album, the band has picked up the electronic dance thread, previously woven into the third album, and delivers a set of diverse sounds that sparkle with falsetto harmonies and clever musical arrangements.
The opening and title track, “Prayer for the Weekend,” is an infectious disco-driven call to prayer that introduces a gospel theme that lasts throughout the album. The song extends words of caution to weekenders, people who work a nine-to-five job and get their emotional release through a weekend of excess partying, often with detrimental results. “Let’s pray that the weekend won’t kill us, babe,” is one lyric.
“Worrying Kind” is a stomping pop song along the lines of the big glam sound of Roy Wood’s Wizard. The song, which leads the listeners back to the early 1970s era of British glam-rock, was a perfect entry for the Eurovision Song Contest, an annual Europe-wide music contest mired with cheesiness. Performing “Worrying Kind,” the Ark won the Swedish nomination and will compete in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, to be held in Helsinki on May 12. The contest captures the attention of millions of viewers, and success there has propelled many careers including that of ABBA, who debuted and won in 1974 with “Waterloo.”
“Absolutely No Decorum” is the first single from the album and another compelling argument by Salo to live life to the fullest, avoid conformity and say whatever you like. The song is tied to a scandal caused by a now-infamous 9/11 joke Salo made during a performance at the opening ceremony for the new Swedish Embassy in Washington, D.C. in October 2006.
The inappropriateness of his joke, which generated laughter from the audience as well as public outrage and death threats, became apparent in the ensuing scandal that caused the band to apologize and cancel a planned U.S tour.
The danceable “Gimme Love,” a beat-heavy gospel with heavenly harmonies is one of the album’s highlights. “Oh Lord, I need your help now to feel love because I’ve forgotten how,” sings Salo. The song’s uplifting message of love concludes the album’s religious theme. “Gimme Love” asks for the ability to love and give love like a messiah, and also comments on hostilities and bad vibes that surround us through “scrutinizers, brutalizers, hipster jerks and bad advisers.”
“Prayer for the Weekend” is catchy pop at its best, a mix of smart humor and liberating sincerity. So far only available on import through Roxy Recordings, this one is still sure to excite a growing number of U.S. fans, and when the time comes, give the Ark a chance to salvage many more. There is still plenty of room here on the Ark.