Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Josh Johnson
Damn it if many of the same reasons to love the Shout Out Louds don't bubble right out of this captivating, Twilight Zone-styled short story, written and read by the Swedish band's keyboardist, Bebban Stenborg. She calls it "The Big Dive," and it's a product of a summer-long refresher course in the history of the circus in her native country. It's not a Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey story of the freakish individuals plying their own freakish talents for some coin and the ooos and awws of the crowd, but one that contorts the many separate feelings associated with a night of entertainment when it's played out on a bed of wood chips, in a ring that contains the accidental droppings of elephants and tigers. There are the people in the stands hoping for the big collapse - wanting a shaky tight rope walker to lose balance or the lion to close down its mouth hard on the trainer's head and there are others who just marvel as they slide piece after piece of fluffy white popcorn down their gullets. The Shout Out Louds embody all of the great human traits - forming a shimmering all-purpose cocktail that is self-deprecating, hesitatingly ebullient, spirited, level-headed and cautiously optimistic. Lead singer Adam Olenius mastered a sort of gleefully captured the sound of guy who has taken his lumps time and again, but keeps getting up and brushing his trousers off to give it another try. It's the basic sentiment to one of the catchiest songs I've heard in forever - "The Comeback," from the band's debut full-length Howl Howl Gaff Gaff. There are indications on the group's teaser EP Tonight I Have To Leave It that next month's sophomore record -- Our Ill Wills -- out on Merge Records, will be of the same order. Here, Stenborg draws you in like a candle's flame, warm and convincingly sweet. It's the tale of a woman who dives into a shallow pool upon the back of a horse named Ollie. Middle of the way through, you'll hear church bells clanging and at the end of the story, that she thought to include a description of the balloons whose strings had been accidentally let go of and were now nestling the top roof of the tent suggests that there's a surplus of enchanting drama amongst the members of this super group. - Sean Moeller
Stenborg provides background for the text:
"During the summer of 2006, I spent a week reading up on Swedish circus throughout history. A small portion of one book was dedicated to the life of Ingeborg Gröning, "a phenomenon of human bendiness," and because of the sadness of her life, she stayed with me for the rest of that summer like a little canary in my head. Anita wasn't mentioned in any of the books, so when I saw her in a photograph taken in the 1950's on a wall behind the stage at a carnival I wondered why that was, and began to look for her. Her story was mysteriously no where to be found, but when my grandmother heard about my search she told me she remembered hearing about Anita's performances and later on her tragic death. My grandmother thinks she had it coming because animal cruelty is no joke, but since I couldn't find a single article to shed any light on the circumstances around her person I decided to find her innocent until proven otherwise and then I conveniently called off the search. And then I wrote this, simply to put my mind to rest."
"Shout Out Louds Official Site":http://www.shoutoutlouds.com