Swedish firecrackers the Sounds may wield synths as deftly as any new wavers, but their punkish metal stems from a very different place. Just chat with three members of the band -- guitarist Felix Rodriguez, bassist Johan Bengtsson and keyboardist Jesper Anderberg -- as they nurse hangovers and chat by speakerphone about what they listened to growing up. "Europe!" a few voices chime in. "The fiiiinal countdown...," one Swede sings in the background. "Have you heard Europe's Live from L.A. '87?" Rodriguez asks. "It's great! Lots of bombs. Fireworks." The quintet's 2003 debut, Living in America, shows no obvious devotion to cock-rockin' hair metal but instead resembles a thrashy Blondie, thanks to the empowered 'tude of vocalist Maja Ivarsson. Nevertheless, the group's live act riffs a different story. Sporting a platinum shag and an icy stare -- along with a smoky shout so sassy it recalls Pat Benatar in her prime -- Ivarsson struts and preens like any metal prima donna, dousing the crowd with beer while bellowing statements such as "That's what Mama likes!" and balancing on the drum kit in heels. Her bandmates even catch the hairspray bug: "Seven Days a Week" threatens to break into Van Halen's "Panama" at any moment, and "The S.O.U.N.D.S" explodes like a Bon Jovi Jersey homecoming gig.
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