A Dristig & Drabanterna Retrospective

I recently reviewed Mattias Dristig’s card game NätTrollz. A man of many talents, he is also a band leader, and I have received three CD:s for review. There are 16 tracks total on these discs, which would in the age of vinyl have made them EPs unless some tracks had been super long. Much of the following will only be comprehensible to people familiar with Swedish folk rock, but I guess it’s never too late to go down that rabbit hole.

Dristig, I would guess, is a typical Swedish 19th century military name. When 300 new recruits showed up all named Svensson, Larsson or Nilsson, officers needed to be able to tell them apart. They would give the men short new surnames, many of which were manly adjectives. Dristig is an archaic word for ‘brave’. And his band Drabanterna are the ‘bodyguards’ or ‘henchmen’. So this band is pretty much named Braveheart & the Bodyguards.

A pair of musicians perform on all three discs: Mattias Dristig writes all lyrics and most tunes, sings his heart out and plays rhythm guitar; Kristoffer Åberg plays lead guitar, bass, banjo and more. Camilla Hederstedt sings backup beautifully on two of the discs. (Somebody give this woman a record deal!) Other members come and go, doing a fine job too.

The musical style is called progg in Sweden. It’s a 70s style, but it has nothing to do with virtuoso prog rock, odd time signatures or scifi cover art: it’s folk rock with politically progressive lyrics. On the 2017 sleeve, Dristig identifies four main enemies: neofascism, capitalism, patriarchy and the middle class! A graduate of Saltsjöbadens Samskola, your reviewer hunkers down a little self-consciously and becomes acutely aware that he’s a member of Sweden’s non-revolutionary Left.

I would compare this music primarily to Lars Winnerbäck, Stefan Sundström and Ulf Lundell, which may just be a sign of a life lived in Stockholm. Dristig & Drabanterna are based in Gothenburg, where the obvious references may be other ones. I don’t know the genre very well, so the reader beware: this is not an expert review.

  • 2008’s Kinesisk demokrati (yes, they appropriated the G’n’R album title) has four songs. #1 is about homelessness and sounds like The Clash. #2-3 are folk ballads in triple time, one about insomnia and depression, the other about media exhibitionism and quite similar to Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters”. #4 is a piano ballad about depression and mental care facilities. Some fiery guitar solos here don’t recur on later discs.
  • The 2012 offering Fru K har kommit hem (“Mrs. K has come home”) ranges quite widely in style: it has two boogie tunes (#1, #4), two Swedish folk songs / visor (#3 in triple time, #6 in quadruple), one Greek-style folk song (#2) and one pop tune that reminds me of The Kooks (#5). Lyrical themes are anti-capitalism, alcohol, lost love, class hatred, environmental politics and childhood summer memories. Song title #5 translates as “The need for new environmental policies”, which is magnificently progg. Reminds me of the Norwegian metal parody band Black Debbath’s excellent tune “Åpent brev til sporveisdirektøren”, “Open letter to the director of public transport”!
  • The 2017 disc Kallt (“Cold”) with six tunes is the band’s latest release apart from two singles, as far as I can tell. It has two boogie tunes (#1, #5), three folk ballads in triple (#2, #3, #6) and one folk rock song. Lyrical themes are diminishing social solidarity, missing your loved one, loyalty to friends, political protest and breaking up.

All in all I’ll say that though it’s not my genre, I believe I recognise this as quality stuff in its genre. There’s a lot of boogie, a lot of folkie ballads in triple time and a lot of political agitation. I’ll be happy to buy a ticket the next time Dristig & Drabanterna play Stockholm.

Most of the band’s catalogue is available on Spotify and Deezer. As for information about them, they haven’t got a super focused internet presence, but you can check Dristig’s publishing website for news, and you can thumbs-up the band’s page on Facebook.

Author: Martin R

Dr. Martin Rundkvist is a Swedish archaeologist, journal editor, skeptic, atheist, lefty liberal, bookworm, boardgamer, geocacher and father of two.

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