ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
There's a band from Stockholm called The Knife.
Our critic, Robert Christgau, didn't think he would like it very much, and he was wrong.
ROBERT CHRISTGAU: It isn't just the news hound in me whose ears stick up when a consensus develops around a record in a style I normally find alien. It's the listener in me tracking new pleasure paths. I've learned that you don't have to be a metal head to love Motorhead, or a 16-year-old girl to want the Backstreet Boys' song "I Want It That Way." So though I seldom get involved with boy-girl synth and vocal duos, I registered the industrial-grade buzz surrounding "Silent Scream" by the Swedish sibling act, The Knife.
Here are the first sounds I made out when I streamed it online.
(Soundbite of music)
CHRISTGAU: Maybe, you just don't like screechy synths. Usually, neither do I. But that title song tunelet? Hooked so hard, I found myself perking up whenever "Silent Scream" came on. A track later, "Neverland" did the same trick.
(Soundbite of song, "Neverland")
THE KNIFE (Musical Group): (Singing) Eyes are sober, this is the plan. I'm sitting in a car heading Neverland. A fancy man, a fancy man. He's pointing his fingers that are left on his hand. Eyes are hazel...
CHRISTGAU: The dopey, Bjorky voice belongs to Karin Dreijer, doing it for dollars and for a fancy man, she claims, at the end of "Neverland". This would be pretty bleak, if everything else about the thing wasn't so silly. Bleak dance-ability is definitely The Knife's way. Music bloggers are right to crow about their textural freshness and shivering digital luster. But those good things wouldn't ring my chimes, if Silent Scream wasn't also a hoot. More than how inventively brother Olof milks the machines, I love the way his sister, Karen, duets with herself on "We Share Our Mother's Health."
(Soundbite of song, "We Share Our Mother's Health")
THE KNIFE: (Singing) Trees there will be; apples, fruits maybe. You know, what I fear. The end is always near. Trees there will be; apples, fruits maybe. You know, what I fear. The end is always near.
CHRISTGAU: It's from my reading - not my listening - that I know that muffled guy is really sister Karen, manhandled electronically. I know what the English as a second language lyrics say from my reading, too. Applying a magnifying glass to my CD booklet, I see the male voice admonishing: You say you need it when you don't - and the female responding, you know what I fear, the end is always near. Deeply felt, I have no doubt.
The music does darken as the album proceeds. So even though I still think The Knife sound braver when they're sillier, I respect their seriousness enough to give them the last word.
SIEGEL: The album is called, "Silent Shout" by the band The Knife. Our reviewer, Robert Christgau, is a contributing editor to Rolling Stone magazine.
(Soundbite of song, "Marble House")
THE KNIFE: (Singing) I cut your nails and comb your hair. I carry you down the stairs. I wanted to see right through from the other side. I wanted to walk a trail with no end in sight.
The moment we believe that we have never met. Another kind of love, it's easy to forget. When we are all alone, then we do both agree. We have a thing in common. This was meant to be.