LIVE REVIEW: Tove Styrke, Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen, 22/04/15

Is it time to have an open door policy with Europe? Certainly there’s no reason for this to have been top of mind of late, but it’s worth pondering if we Brits have a separatist prejudice to our music tastes. 

Tove Styrke‘s January release Ego was a smash hit in everything apart from real life: pulse-quickening production, a soaring chorus, a video featuring a raincoated office worker in Tokyo. It had everything it needed for success. The only problem was that it only got a single daytime play on the UK’s main pop station. On a weekend. When it was nice out. So it didn’t chart. This is a similar fate to other recent smashes by Swedish stars. Erik Hassle‘s No Words is in 2015’s top five pop sparklers. Yet the radio (and the charts) remain sadly Hassle-free. 

Maybe this Swedish pop perfection is being crowded out of the charts by a ‘golden age’ of British music. Certainly there seems to be an enduring appetite to stimulate a guitar revival, given radio has spent most of this decade looming over guitar music brandishing a defibrillator. If you spent your time immersed in the details of the hit parade, the existence of Catfish and The Bottlemen would have escaped you. The Llandudno beat combo are styled straight out of vintage section of the Melody Maker, and their 300 Radio 1 plays in 2015 have achieved scant reward (the last single didn’t quite make the Top 90). Seriously: stand back, the patient can’t be saved.

So maybe it’s not British people who want to Buy British so much as our airwave-ruling overseers. Tove Styrke’s show on Wednesday demonstrates she’s got plenty more in her locker to trouble the authorities. Ego was still a standout smash but Number One channels Hanson‘s Mmm Bop so expertly that it could have earned a single daytime play itself (unsurprising, given Styrke mentioned them as her guilty pleasure when we sat down for a chat with her).

Styrke is a 22 year-old who sings songs about “smashing the patrimony” in a shimmery black baseball cap. Generally a great chorus trumps all manner of politicking in music but, hey, if a little bit of patrimony gets damaged in transit with Borderline then it can’t be a bad thing.

Musical variety doesn’t always work, though. Snarer feels like a vegetarian version of a Rihanna dancehall track and, let’s face it, at a barbecue no one’s reaching for the jerk courgette. But there are certainly enough pointers to think forthcoming album Kiddo could be one of the more consistent pop records of the year. 

On tonight’s evidence, however, Tove Styrke has earned her work permit. Time to for the people to speak and hopefully vote for closer ties with Europe. Radio – and the charts – would be a great deal better for it.

Bruce Daisley

Ego by Tove Styrke can be ordered here; you can also watch our exclusive PressPLAY interview with her below.

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Tove Styrke, Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen, London, 22/04/15
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