1/26/2011

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Picks of the Past: Trillion
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Picks of the Past: Trillion
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Love in the House of Spies

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Most rock bands start small. Whether it’s due to financial necessity, or just because it’s a longstanding musical tradition, the first output from a newlyformed band is usually scaled-down. When Bruce Springsteen was originally signed to a major label, he was just a dude who performed solo with an acoustic guitar – a far cry from the big “E-Street Band” sound for which he is commonly known. Even bands who have rarely (if ever) changed their lineups over the course of many years – U2, Metallica – have certainly changed their sound, making it bigger and more ambitious than the garage music they started out playing.
Lina Brunkell

And then there’s Trillion: a brand new band whose debut CD has such a big, polished sound, one might assume that it was massaged to loving perfection by a veteran arranger like Paul Buckmaster or Steve Bartek. But in fact, the self-titled album was put together by three people you’ve never heard of. The voice of Trillion is Swedish newcomer Lina Brunkell; songwriting and guitars are provided by Ross Golan (who may or may not be the Ross Golan of Molehead, in which case maybe you have heard of him); and keyboards and production are handled by Brian Langsbard. The ensemble aims for a sound that is like an Alternative Rock James Bond film score. The results place Trillion somewhere on a plain inhabited by Garbage and Supreme Beings of Leisure, but on a slightly edgier tangent. Speaking of which, I was about to go off on a very long tangent about Garbage, but I think I’ll reserve that for the blog. Suffice it to say that I’ve been a bit disappointed with Garbage over the years, because they haven’t quite lived up to their pedigree. However, I have not yet heard their new album as of this writing, so maybe I’ll come around. The fact that a brand-new band like Trillion could even be compared to a musical stalwart like Garbage says something about Trillion’s ambitiousness. Likening the music of Trillion to a movie score is not far-fetched either, since Brian Langsbard actually is an experienced composer and arranger of movie scores. Other bands have been influenced by 60’s-era action-adventure movie scores (one of my favorite such bands being Snake River Conspiracy), but not quite to the extent that Trillion have. It helps that modern movies like the “Austin Powers” series have led to a revival of that style in popular culture, so that even kids who have never seen a Matt Helm movie can identify with the sound. But whereas “Austin Powers” used kooky, Henry Mancini-type themes, Trillion aims for a less ironic sound, more akin to a John Barry score. For those of you who are not film-score geeks, this simply means that Trillion members are taking their influences seriously, not goofing on them. All that being said, there are plenty of things that keep Trillion from falling into the “retro band” category: Most notably, the performance of vocalist Lina Brunkell. With Brunkell, Trillion have gone for a singer with more modern sensibilities. Although she handles the old-school material with aplomb,

…waybackmachine.org/…/trillion.html

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1/26/2011

Picks of the Past: Trillion
she doesn’t sound like she just stepped out of Dr. Evil’s time machine. So, while she is no Shirley Bassey, Brunkell’s voice actually gets better the more she is required to belt it out. In fact, one of the minor shortcomings of the album is that Brunkell seems more challenged by quieter ballads like “Who You Are” than by mega-anthems like “Victimized”. All in all, however, she is a more capable vocalist than, say, Shirley Manson. Yes, I went there. As for Ross Golan’s songs, well, I dig ‘em. For all the bombast that Trillion is capable of, the album opens very quietly with the intro to “In My Head”. Then the song builds and builds until it reaches a point where, with the crashing guitar and Brunkell’s echoing vocals, you forget that it started almost a capella. “Shattered” is not a cover of the Stones song, but is actually a post-breakup song with Brunkell singing I’m shattered lik e a brok en glass, severed from my better half, it’s the way it should be (I don’t have a lyric sheet, so I've used commas here instead of line breaks). In fact, Golan has a knack for writing songs that can be convincingly performed from a woman’s point of view (and I’m starting to doubt that he’s the guy from Molehead). “The Way I Am” is the declaration of a woman asserting herself in a relationship for the first time: You hold me down, but I can mak e it alone now. And I still can’t get the chorus of “Victimized” (You left me victimized, you told me lies, look in my eyes, tell me the truth!) out of my head. Same thing with “Walls”, actually. And “Quarter Life Crisis” is a great, manic rock song, which proves that Trillion sound just as good with straightforward Modern Rock material as they do with their retro stuff. In fact, after talking up the James Bond aspects of Trillion for way too many column inches, I should point out that the album is NOT a front-to-back homage to 60’s cinema. If you want to know which are the old-schooliest tracks, so that you can skip right to them, they are “How I Feel”, “The Way I Am”, “Coming True” and “Victimized”. But skipping any tracks on this album would be doing Trillion and yourself a great disservice. Trillion generously allows you to stream the entire album from their excellent website, so you can try before you buy; but as always, I insist that if you DO want the album, then you should actually buy it with actual money. Trillion have made an impressive debut, coming from out of the blue with a very cool album. In fact, they have already impressed some Hollywood producers enough to license their music for upcoming productions. It’s not for a James Bond movie, but hopefully that will just be a matter of time.

…waybackmachine.org/…/trillion.html

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