Song of the Day: Träd Gräs och Stenar “Punkrockaren”
Psychedelic music legends, Träd Gräs och Stenar, have lost none of their ability to surprise and confound expectations over the years. For their comeback record, Hemlösa Katter (or Homeless Cats), they opted to open the album with a downbeat cover of fellow Swedish group Teddybears‘ bouncy pop single “Punkrocker” which featured the vocal talents of The Stooges singer Iggy Pop. “Punkrocker” had been a massive, inescapable radio hit in Träd Gräs och Stenar‘s native Sweden: featuring bouncy electronics and production elements, if slightly detached/ fatalist lyrics from Iggy. The Träd Gräs och Stenar read on the song is probably the least “punk” sounding song ever, despite the chorus wherein singer, singer/ guitarist Bo Anders Persson repeatedly insists “I’m a punkrocker, yes I am!” Treating an upbeat pop-punk song as a post rock dirge is something that on face really shouldn’t work: punk rock thrives on speed and energy after all. In execution, however, the cover instead redefines what punk is all about while also amplifying the underlying tragic elements of the song’s lyrics. So, Träd Gräs och Stenar‘s cover is both an ingenious post rock jam that bands like Explosions in the Sky would be jealous of, but also a slyly political meta-commentary on punk rock generally.
Träd Gräs och Stenar (Swedish for Trees, Grass and Stones) were formed in 1969 from previous incarnations of the band that included the groups Pärson Sound, International Harvester and Harvester. The group effectively invented the Swedish prog rock scene, effectively playing a Swedish version of Can-styled krautrock before Can even existed. The group have long functioned as a collective and have gone through periods of activity and inactivity, including a lengthy pause between 1972 and 1996. The band continues to be active and has taken on new members after the recent, sudden and tragic deaths of founding first bassist, Torbjörn Abelli in 2011 and later drummer Thomas Mera Gartz in 2012, both from mysterious and sudden infections. The group remains champions of long-form instrumental improvisation and deeply psychedelic music. There most recent record, 2017’s Tack För Kaffet (aka Thanks For The Coffee) is a tribute to Träd Gräs och Stenar‘s lost members. Enjoy!
The bouncy Teddybears/ Iggy Pop original:
The ingeniously downbeat Träd Gräs och Stenar cover: