Chronique | Pain - I Am

Pierre Sopor 14 mai 2024

Pain's last album, Coming Home, dates back to 2016: eight years separate it from I Am. Eight years is a long time. A lot has happened in eight years and yet, although this new album from Peter Tägtgren's electro metal project bears some traces of the last few years, eight years is also a very short period: listening to it, you quickly realise that time doesn't seem to have any hold on Pain.

Indeed, Pain does what Pain does best, with an efficiency that no longer needs proving. I Just Dropped by (to Say Goodbye) is a fast-paced affair: aggressive martial riffs, hard-hitting beats and, as always, clear vocals capable of conveying rage, melancholy and irony simultaneously. Eight years have gone by, it's true, but Pain hasn't aged a bit, a fact that its mischievous singer has fun bragging about in tracks like Push the Pusher, Go With the Flow and Party in my Head, and their refusal to put an end to the fiesta, to settle down, to grow up. Tägtgren is always dancing on that fine thread he has woven for himself, always on the verge of sinking into bad taste or kitsch but, with a daredevil acrobatic pirouette of which he is a master, he pulls through with the elegance of an entertainer who has mastered his act to perfection.

Beyond its unstoppable effectiveness, Pain can rely on the theatrical grandiloquence provided by the orchestral touches (the violins and pianos always work) but above all on the voice of its singer, capable of infusing so many strong and contradictory emotions into tracks which, without him, would at best be irresistible wrecking balls. If you've ever seen him live, it's obvious: the Swede is as much a singer as he is an actor. You'll find yourself dancing like Neanderthals, but with a sad look in your eyes and feeling blue, and you'll find a real grace and even a certain romanticism in these hard-hitting anthems punctuated by ‘suck my balls’ and other punchlines.

Melancholy was the great strength of Coming Home, I Am seems to be less nuanced. But that doesn't stop the skies from darkening on a regular basis: Don't Wake the Dead and its 80's synthpop influences, whose bittersweet mood is embodied by the violins, the heaviness of I Am which underlines the fatality of the subject matter (it's about illness : if it seems that time has stood still on Pain, here's a theme that proves that Tägtgren's concerns are nonetheless evolving), the dark romanticism of My Angel, a duet with French actress Cécile Siméone, which in fact dates from 2011, and the conclusion Fair Game give the album a more tormented soul, giving it both depth and breath.

In the meantime, Pain is multiplying its assaults. Once again, the initial reaction might be that we've heard it all before, that in his generosity and excess, Tägtgren isn't reinventing himself. And yet, after two or three listens, the refrains of Go With the Flow, Not For Sale and Revolution, with their irresistible aggression and festive flavour, are firmly planted in our heads. Is nothing moving on the Pain front? Perhaps. But a world brought to a standstill by a pandemic has given birth to a great anthem of the covid era, Party in my Head, as fun as it is oozing madness, heady and, once again, fearsomely effective both musically and in its balance between farce, despair and irony.

A new succession of unifying anthems, I Am's only fault is that, in the end, it's ‘just’ the apogee of a style. Pain, as falsely naive as ever, obeys no rules when it comes to throwing the party or ruining it with a jubilant, bratty attitude. What was initially perceived as a recreational side-project to Hypocrisy has turned out to be a far more fascinating hit machine with a far more assertive personality than a distracted ear might detect on first listen. A grimacing imp, Tägtgren leads this apocalyptic party with infectious conviction, vivacity and enthusiasm. Pain may not appeal to the darkest recesses of our brains, but by grabbing us by the guts straight away, it takes us on a crazy, tumultuous journey that, sometimes even unknowingly, remains engraved in our hearts. As Peter told us : just go with the flow !