Ace of Base and Army of Lovers perform at Olimpiisky
Published: December 14, 2007
Pop acts that came to fame in the 1990s, such as Take That and the Spice Girls, are already taking advantage of their fans' nostalgia to hold lucrative reunion tours. Following in their wake, two Swedish pop groups who saw their heyday in the '90s, Army of Lovers and Ace of Base, come to Moscow to headline at the third annual Legends of Retro FM festival at Olimpiisky Sports Complex on Saturday.
Army of Lovers does not play together regularly anymore but periodically assembles for reunion shows. Ace of Base performed without a break from 1990 to 2005, but only began playing together again in November this year. Ace of Base recently appeared at the glamorous Moscow nightclub Rai, which will host another Swedish pop group, Vacuum, on New Year's Eve.
"Swedish pop has a strong focus on really good melodies, which is synonymous with European continental music, such as Russian and Swedish folk music," said Alexander Bard, the founder of Army of Lovers, in a recent e-mail interview.
The Stockholm-based band formed in 1987 and was named after a 1979 documentary film by a German gay rights activist, Rosa von Praunheim, called "Army of Lovers or the Revolt of the Perverts." The band established itself as a fixture of gay culture with song titles such as "Sexual Revolution," "Like a Virgin Sacrificed" and "Israelism," which added a disco beat and Jewish-themed rap to the tune of Hevenu Shalom Aleichem.
Its frontman was Jean-Pierre Barda, an Algerian Jew who had moved to Sweden as a child. Barda didn't sing, but chanted poetry alongside a series of female singers, the first of whom was Camilla Henemark.
By 1996, Army of Lovers had sold millions of records, toured the world and reached a point where they were repeating themselves. Bard saw the need to move on. "Personally, I needed a new challenge," he recalled. "Running a record company, a management company and working directly with bands like Vacuum provided me with that challenge."
Bard founded Stockholm Records together with Ola Hakansson (from the band Secret Service) in 1992. By the time they sold the company to Universal Music in 1998, it had become Scandinavia's biggest independent record company, signing artists such as The Cardigans. In 1996, Bard formed the group Vacuum with Army of Lovers composer and arranger Anders Wollbeck, keyboardist Marina Schiptjenko and singer Mattias Lindblom,
"Army of Lovers is more or less a document in time, a project that personifies the 1990s," Bard said. "This is perhaps the band's greatest strength."
Ace of Base formed in Gothenburg, Sweden, a town known more for heavy metal than synthpop. The band's international success easily equalled that of their compatriots Abba. Melodic Europop set to a reggae beat proved to be a winning combination in songs such as "All That She Wants." The band's 1993 debut album, "Happy Nation," sold 23 million copies and remains the best-selling debut album ever made by a band.
The enduring popularity of Swedish pop in Russia may seem perplexing, but Barda has an explanation: "The combination is extremely attractive to the Russian audience. To have a hit record in Russia, you need a really strong and preferably melodramatic track. Combine this with a flamboyant performance and you will be successful."
Legends of Retro FM starts at 7 p.m. on Sat. at Olimpiisky Sports Complex. Metro Prospekt Mira. Tel. 956-6351.
By Kirill Galetski