Our Take: Freedom Reigns in The Royal Concept’s Triumphant ‘The Man Without Qualities’

The Man Without Qualities - The Royal Concept
The Man Without Qualities - The Royal Concept

Mitch's Take

A journey of freedom and discovery, The Royal Concept’s ‘The Man Without Qualities’ radiates West Coast warmth as the Swedish band inject catchy pop and heartfelt emotion into their triumphant sophomore album.
for fans of Styx, Crystal Fighters, Phoenix

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One of The Royal Concept’s new promotional photos finds all four members of the Swedish band gathered around a small luminescent orb, marveling at the dazzling bright light it emits. Their faces evoke wonder as they stare into an otherworldly white abyss, conjuring a sense of exploration and excitement. Whether they’re waking up to some novel reality, or uncovering a gem that was hiding in plain sight, the photo suggests that this is the start of a big change. It’s a perfect frame of reference for understanding The Royal Concept and the context for their brand new sophomore album, The Man Without Qualities.

The Royal Concept © 2019
The Royal Concept © 2019

Out May 24, 2019, The Man Without Qualities is The Royal Concept’s first collection of new music since 2015’s Smile EP, as well as their first official independent album since cutting ties with major label Republic Records. The four-piece of David Larson [vocals], Filip Bekic [guitar], Magnus Robert [bass], and Frans Povel Olsson [drums], The Royal Concept have been one of Sweden’s greatest musical exports since the band debuted over six years ago. Catchy songs like “World on Fire,” “On Our Way,” “Gimme Twice” and “D-D-Dance” established them as a formidable pop/rock force in their early years. The five-track Smile blended those infectious hooks with nuanced emotional depth, finding the group honing in on a dual “dirty and sunny” vibe that was at once thrilling and emotionally enriching.

Those who have had the chance to experience The Royal Concept live know that this band is at its best when it can connect directly to its fans. Their transition to independence was not an easy one – the past few years have seen each member overcoming individual hurdles and dabbling in outside jobs – but eventually, whatever hiatus may have existed came to an end and the The Royal Concept created an exciting, propulsive musical experience full of tension, honesty, growth, and organic energy.

The Man Without Qualities heralds the dawn of a new era for The Royal Concept.

Recorded in Hollywood at The Boulevard Recording Studio with producer Chris Seefried, The Man Without Qualities combines The Royal Concept’s pristine, familiar Swedish pop sheen with a natural, California sunshine. While it is by no means a concept album, these eight songs inevitably tell the story of an intimate human voyage up from darkness and out into light.

The Man Without Qualities begins with the melancholy synth sounds of opener “Wake Up,” a poignant slow-burner that immerses listeners in a wash of keyboards and, as the song progresses, emphatic overdriven rock guitars. The Royal Concept’s musical maturity is already apparent in their use of space and time; the fact that “Wake Up” isn’t a single, but rather the introduction to and setup for what’s to come, means that the band are cultivating an experience for their listeners.

What follows is a full-throttle inundation of progressive rock, colored by self-doubt and searching – that inner pining for direction and purpose. “Wake Up” segues seamlessly into “The Man Without Qualities” through an anthemic drum and guitar-driven crescendo, and as the dust settles we adjust to hear a band completely in their element, grooving through dramatic melodies and raw, lively riffs. Running over five minutes in length, the title track is an epic story of self-discovery — something of a metaphor for where the band were, where they are now, and where they’re going. Ending on a note of hope, The Royal Concept conclude their record’s introduction and proceed to bring us up to speed on the past few years.

Wild Things” is a fiery rock song full of self-reflection and sonic drive: “This love is not my dream, it’s your dream; it just happened to me, my dream is you,” David Larson sings in the run-up to a chorus whose emphatic declaration to get out of the city (because we could do wild things) inspires youthful lust and cheer. Harmonically rich, soulful, and heartfelt, “Wild Things” is the catchy charmer that reminds us who The Royal Concept are, and why we should still be hooked on them all these years later.

The Man Without Qualities - The Royal Concept
The Man Without Qualities – The Royal Concept

Hypnotic lead single “Need to Know” set the tone for the band’s current vision earlier this year. With its moving dance beat, vocal harmonies and sultry licks, “Need to Know” mixes the Smile EP‘s dirty/sunny vibe with a newly relaxed attitude – that intangible “California” element that we can’t quite put our finger on, but we know it when we hear it.

All your rockin’ chair wisdom
Just keeps rockin’ my system
I could sit here for hours
At your feet and just listen
You know we’re young and I’m able
Looking for clues on your table
I got a head full of noise now
Come on, come on make a choice now
Oh yeah I need to know
Need to know, yes or no
Got an aching soul
– “Need to Know,” The Royal Concept

Of course, no artistry moves in only one direction. The Royal Concept dive deeper into rock with “Why Why Not” and “Kick It,” the latter a no-holds-barred Arctic Monkeys-style indie rock explosion. At the same time, “Silver Lining” glides along with a Red Hot Chili Peppers-y coasting bliss. Here, the band sing of knowing what they want in love, turning intimacy received and returned into a metaphor for overall communication in relationships.

All too soon, closer “Up All Night” signifies the record’s end. As previously stated in Atwood’s weekly roundup, “Up All Night” burns the midnight oil in all the right ways, delivering an expressive pop/rock jam tailor-made for those late, intimate evenings spent between two souls. Bustling with passion and knowing, the song finds a band who started the album wayward and directionless ending with a strong sense of identity: They know which way to go, and they’re flying full speed ahead into the brave unknown.

The Royal Concept © 2019
The Royal Concept © 2019

From moments of intense yearning to triumphant celebrations of togetherness and being, The Man Without Qualities is a journey of freedom and discovery.

It took them a while to get to here, but now that they’ve made it, The Royal Concept seem poised for pretty much anything. They’ve peered into that brightly glowing orb and found their new home as a band, closing the first chapter and boldly starting the next one with freshly radiant confidence. From their sophomore album’s strong conceptual entrance, to its downright catchy rock songs and lovely pop jams, to the ultimate message of finding joy and hope in despair and an existential crisis, The Man Without Qualities does all the things a great album should do. The Royal Concept once again have our attention, and they’ve left us wanting so much more.

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:: listen to The Man Without Qualities here ::

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The Man Without Qualities - The Royal Concept

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📸 © 2019

The Man Without Qualities

an album by The Royal Concept

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