Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
It is the outrageous good fortune for all of us that Tobias Froberg and Ane Brun would be touring together, moving about in a rental car, from town to town. It is outrageous luck that they'd show up here in Rock Island in the same way and not just doing their own things - separately working through their material - but ganging up on songs together, giving a couple performances that are partly magical for sure. It's their simple compatibility in mood and crisp autumn goldness that make Froberg and Brun such pleasant collaborators, racketing up the charm factor by several powers of ten. They create an entire atmosphere of heavenly passion, always afoot and always more than just a ceremonial application for the time and place. Here, on "God's Highway" and "Love and Misery," two songs from Froberg's latest full-length "Somewhere In The City," the pair sound as if they've been up to their ears in tear-in-their-ale ballads from country and western lands of yore, though these songs contain more of an overall touch and concern than those songs, usually written for very specific circumstances do. Froberg sounds steeped in massive questions of fragility and head-spinning numbness as it pertains to all of the little things that we get roped up and wrapped in when we're just trying to get from one day or one person to the next without hurting too much. Or getting hurt, or just falling off the side of a cliff - a casualty of natural causes, the coroner would signify on the autopsy report. At the outset of the two cutting "Love & Misery," Froberg says, as an introduction, "This is rock and roll from Sweden," and then comes a tragic-sounding acoustic guitar line that could only mean one thing - grey skies and unhappy hearts in trances, scared to move too much to one side or the other. It's the way he and Brun know rock and roll and it has a way of showing hot blood getting cooled, as if it were on the other side of an observation deck, as if it was a glass being removed from a dishwasher and immediately assuming room temperature right there in that warm hand. His version of rock and roll involves a serious bundling up, a serious bracing for the worst it almost seems. This is a covering up. This is putting your hands over your face and closing your eyes and trying to wish the ghosts and demons of howling sentiments away. He and Brun sing in unison, "I'm your love and misery…This is true/I am fragile just like you/You and me/We are love and misery," and this idea that there's an identity crisis or just a mass confusion between what two people are to each other or what they want to be for the other is a moving one that anyone can feel. It's this feeling that is the bedrock that Froberg builds upon, that which he staples his words of sober requiem to. He sings, "There are too many doors, too many wars on God's highway," on "God's Highway" and it's as if there's more of a dreadful concern about the wars and not the opportunities that the doors symbolize. Perhaps behind all of those many doors are more wars, domestic spats and catastrophe in the wind just waiting for a little opening. It's that fun that is the rock and roll of Tobias Froberg and it's admirably portrayed as the tender limbs of a kiss or a last embrace.