Thursday, January 05, 2006


The Ark
State Of The Ark

It’s not often when every heterosexual male at a rock show feels their sexuality somewhat threatened, but tonight, in the Mercury Lounge, the Ark has succeeded in inspiring just that. Lead singer and proverbially charismatic Ola Salo is strutting on stage wearing leather chaps, a matching leather cap and no top, teasing a white feather boa wrapped multiple times around his neck. Soon thereafter, he beckons a hulking black man to approach the stage and then proceeds to climb on his shoulders and ride him, Salo’s brown frosted hair bobbing about like a woman ridding a mechanical bull. This is when I see some of the men in the audience subconsciously putting their arms around their respective girlfriends. Tightly.

The flamboyant antics of the Ark, heavily influenced by 70’s glam rock and the movie This Is Spinal Tap, is a sight to behold, a lurid rock feast for the absurd-inclined. Guitarists Martin Axen, who, uncannily, looks like Spinal Tap’s Michael McKean and Jepson (just Jepson) both play their dramatic guitar solos synchronized with choreographed poses. The whole band, with the exception of Salo, wears matching military uniforms seemingly designed by a dominatrix tailor. The Ark embraces their outrageous campiness--listening to the Swedish collective back catalogue is an intellectual man’s anti-soundtrack. Essentially, they put the “cum” in “feel the noize.” Their three albums, We Are the Ark, In Lust We Trust, and State of the Ark, a trilogy that completes the self-proclaimed “Arkist Lust Manifesto,” all blend together the bombast of Queen, the euphoric highs of Sweet and Cheap Trick, with the liberating sexuality of Roxy Music and early Bowie. If it all sounds disgustingly ironic to you, it truly isn’t. “We were sick and tired of everything that was supposed to be hip, cool, and ironic,” Salo was once quoted to say. “And that’s why we built the Ark as this big uncool, un-hip thing.” Well, if the Ark is uncool, then don’t call me Miles Davis.

Their newest and best record State of the Ark is currently only available via import. While there was heavy domestic awareness in America, all interested labels eventually passed even after courting the band for quite some time. Incredulously, one industry insider alluded to the Ark’s high gay factor as a deterrent to signing the band. “Yes, it’s 2005,” said the source. “But we need to consider the current political climate in the United States. Right now, this is a Republican country and you know. Republicans don’t buy overtly gay records.” [Look up the lyrics for the Ark’s hit song “Father of a Son” and imagine a conservative American singing along to it.] While it’s difficult to accept in our forward-thinking society that there’s a band too alternative for the mainstream, ultimately, the Ark is also too mainstream for the alternative. The State of the Ark sounds so slickly produced and unrepentantly pompous that it would also feel awkward and out-of-place distributed on an indie label. Sadly, “Clamour For Glamour,” “One of Us Is Gonna Die Young,” and “This Piece of Poetry Is Meant To Do Harm” are all hits-that-will-never-be and the Ark will definitively never be a local rock sensation. And when I meet the Ark in their publicist’s office for our interview, nothing bothers the Swedes more. American apathy is their greatest enemy and they’re determined to conquer it. But despite all the obstacles along the way, the Ark floats on, flamboyantly and winningly, threatening male heterosexuality worldwide.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The US a "Republican country"? ..."The Ark will definitively never be a local rock sensation". Both statements are false.

5:19 PM  

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