New York City, April 1st: The last strains of the afternoon sound check shimmer in the air as Swedish hardcore janglepop dubthump post-artistes Gurken climb down from the stage, their signature coifs looking for all the world like a set of blinking yellow warning lights in the spatter of the mirror disco ball. The band is eager and restless. Will it ever be evening? "Dot is wot we ask for holf the year," lilts percussionist Dave, known in the band as L.G. (short for "Lip Gloss," a moniker that sends the band into gales of laughter but which they won't discuss in English ... to this listener it ends up sounding a bit like gurdy gurdy gurdy gurdy lip gloss ha ha ha ha, but we won't bore you with that). There is a pause and four sets of blonded blue eyes mist over, four brows furrow, grappling with the rigors of consecutive thinking. "Joke!" cries bassist Kurt -- actually, it comes out like "Yolk!" -- and the four nod in recognition, and laugh. "Yolk, yolk, yes!" And sun seems to dawn in their faces.
It's the first night of the long-awaited Gurken tour, assembled by the tireless elves at Home Office Records. Following the blazing Swedish success of "Total Fjord," their first full-length CD, in their home town of Gurdygurdy Mörk, the group is appearing at dozens of dates on their Amerikan Concession Stand Tour. They might not have made it at all, were it not for a misunderstanding concerning a venue; Home Office had booked them for a guest slot by the change booth in the Journal Square PATH station in Hoboken, but Gurken assumed it was the slightly-nearer Hoboken in Belgium. Oops!
The group had its start in the early 80's in a meatballery in Gurdygurdy Mörk one bright afternoon, when manic blond-man guitarist Jon Svensson met winsome blonde Deena Svensson (no relation) in a freak circumstance involving an extremely dense meatball which slid off Deena's plate, fracturing Jon's ankle. "I knew it was love as soon as I felt the bones go," explains Jon, wincing with the memory. Soon after Jon's traction was removed the two began performing Deena's songs as a duo, and early versions of later Gurken hits like "White Punks on Fjords," "Don't Drop the Baby (off the Fjord)" and "Stand By Your Viking" were first created.
In 1984 the pair released their first eight-track tape collection, the out of print "Sounds Like Y," which featured an early recording of their biggest hit to date, "My Boyfriend (Fell off the Fjord)." They quickly attracted attention throughout their home town and as far afield as Upper Gurdygurdy Mörk, where bassist Kurt Svensson (no relation) was living and tending his snow collection. Kurt's collection was donated to a wild snow preserve when he joined the band. "Excellent," he supplies, his bright blond hair poised brilliantly over his clear untroubled blue eyes. "Yolk," he adds. "He only knows these words," whispers Deena.
It wasn't long until drummer Dave "L.G." Svensson (no relation, and pronounced "Svensson" instead of as the others) joined up, and Gurken began churning out popular dance, jangle and hum tunes like "A E I O U and Sometimes J," "Fjord Mustang," "Five Meatballs" and the tenderly sweet "All This Useful Beauty," a pageant of contemplation on the proper use of natural resources ("It' so pretty / isn't it?" sings Deena; "We can use it / and we'll be rich / Don't hate us / Because we're blonde").
Gurken fans will know that their second ill-fated collection on Digital Compact Cassette ("Ooops," says Jon), entitled "(We Drive on the) Right Now" saw them flirt with an article; the band nearly became Die Gurken, but at the last minute they remembered that they were not, in fact, German. "We were so relieved!" shouts L.G., transported back to the moment. "Excellent!" chimes in Kurt. "Right Now" saw them quietly mature from a giggly blond outfit to a slightly more down-to-earth ash-blond group; the change is reflected in their rousing, thoughtful tunes "A Fjord for Ecclesiastes," "A Fjord Over Troubled Water," "It's the End of the Fjord (As We Know It)" and the re-release of "My Boyfriend (Fell off the Fjord)." Actually this latter is the same as their earlier version, but the band forgot that it had already been released to the public. Their newest album, "Total Fjord," sees them deepen yet further into a sort of strawberry blond, and develop a wistful philosophical bent with anthemic tunes like "8500 Million Fjords," "Blue Swede Shoes" and the caustic "Sven Me Amadeus."
But they're still kids at heart. "Yah," nods Jon enthusiastically. "You know it. You can't stay blond forever."
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Twenty-two points, plus triple-word-score, plus fifty points for using all my letters. Game's over. I'm outta here.