Sweden’s Caesars hit it big with “Jerk It Out” via iPod commercial



By Steve Newton

In the booklet for the Caesars’ new CD, Paper Tigers, there’s a photo of singer-guitarist and main songwriter Joakim Ahland in the studio, riffing out on a classic old-school rock guitar: a white Strat with a maple neck. That’s the same body/neck combo Jimi Hendrix immortalized at Woodstock; it’s such a fine-looking axe that I had to score one myself.

Of course, ownership of identical instruments doesn’t mean that Ahland and I are on equal footing musically. He might use his to help conjure a thrilling tune like “Jerk It Out”, which Rolling Stone describes as “the greatest song ever to appear in an iPod commercial”. For the last 20 years I’ve been using mine to try and master “Dust in the Wind”. In another 20 I should have it down pat.

Paper Tigers is just one in the long line of outstanding, ’60s-inspired guitar albums to come out of Sweden this year; it’s right up there with Mando Diao’s Hurricane Bar and the Soundtrack of Our Lives’ Origin Vol. I. As Ahland asserts from a tour stop in Oxford, England, his homeland has a long tradition of exporting fine rock ‘n’ roll bands.

“It’s been like that for a very long time,” he reports. “There was a revival of garage-rock bands in the ’80s that kind of inspired a new generation of bands in the ’90s, and they in turn inspired the next generation.”

The Caesars leader cites Silver Bullet and the Knife as two up-and-coming Swedish acts to watch for. His own group-which opens for the Kaiser Chiefs at the Commodore on Sunday (June 5)-is not quite so sparkly-fresh. “We’ve been in this game for a long time,” notes the 34-year-old rocker, “but it’s only now that people outside Sweden are starting to notice us. We’ve actually been around for, like, 10 years, you know, doin’ records and shit, tourin’ as well.”

Ahland’s band released its first album, Youth Is Wasted on the Young, on Chicago’s Minty Fresh label in ’98, when its sound was rawer and more garagey. The Ahland-produced Paper Tigers shows the group taking a more polished tack, as it did on its 2002 predecessor, Love for the Streets, which earned the equivalent of a Grammy in Sweden for album of the year.

“I think our sound has developed more than changed,” he points out, “because we’ve always been pretty sure how we wanted to sound, and what we wanted to achieve musically.”

What the group hasn’t been so certain about is its name. At the time of its North American debut, the quartet was called the Twelve Caesars; before that it was known in Sweden as Caesar’s Palace, but for obvious legal reason had to forfeit that moniker as well.

“We wanted it to be the Caesarians at first,” says Ahland with a chuckle, “but the record company thought it was too gross or something.”

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