RIP Kent (1990-2016)
Relax. Nobody died.
One of my favorite rock bands, Swedish Kent, has decided to call it quits. Here’s why that’s no real catastrophe.
After 26 active years, the band will release their final album, “Då som nu för alltid”, this year, pushing the number of released studio albums to a very respective 14. The album will be followed by a Scandinavian tour, concluding with the closing concert on 17 December.
I first discovered Kent when they released their third album, Isola, back in 1997, but didn’t really fall head over heels in love with the band until the release of their fourth album, Hagnesta Hill. After that, I obtained copies of what I missed from their back catalog and continued to purchase new Kent releases on CD up until the 7th release, Tillbaka till samtiden, in 2007. From there on out, Spotify has covered my musical needs, including new Kent releases. Over the years I’ve also gone to a fair number of Kent concerts, and my closet is full of well-worn, washed out, and too small band t-shirts - because you don’t throw away band t-shirts.
Kent is the band I had my most profound musical experience with - it involved Hagnesta Hill, alcohol and snow. During the Christmas of 1999, I’d spent an evening and the better part of a night partying at a friend’s house. Going home in the early - but still dark - hours of a new day, on snow covered sidewalks and roads, concentrating hard to walk in a straight line (but failing miserably), I was listening to Kent playing “Kungen är död”, when it started to snow heavily. At that moment, everything was perfect: It was the just right combination of being tired and drunk from a long night of drinking, feeling exactly warm enough with the help of my winter clothes and the booze, and the calm of the snow and the abandoned streets. It’s probably the closest I’ve ever been to a religious experience.
In my humble opinion, Hagnesta Hill was Kent’s musical highlight, and it’s been a slow, downwards spiral for the band after 1999. I guess it’s natural for a band to develop their sound, or they risk going stale. In the progress, Kent gradually transitioned from being a rock band to more of a rock-synth band, with an increasing number of electronica elements in their music, a change that didn’t sound well in my ears. “Progressively boring” would be a fitting description of what has happened to Kent’s sound from 1999 up until today.
But despite my reservations about the modern version of Kent, they’ve managed to stay popular with their fans, and despite mainly singing in Swedish, the band has somehow managed to build up a sizable fanbase outside of Scandinavia over the years. In an attempt to conquer the world, they also released English versions of two of their albums, Isola and Hagnesta Hill. After having listened to the Swedish version of these two albums extensively, hearing the English versions is surreal. The English texts are not direct translations of the Swedish versions - that probably wouldn’t have made much sense1- but it often sounds like they are singing about something completely different in the in the Swedish and English versions of a particular song. Let’s look at the opening lines from the song “Music Non Stop” as a quick example:
“Jag behövde en hundradels sekund / Nu när jag tagit beslutet är jag lugn” - Lyrics from “Music Non Stop” (Swedish version) by Kent
A (rough) direct translation to English would be something like this: “I needed a hundredth of a second / Now that I’ve made the decision I’m calm”. The first two lines from the English version of the song, however, goes like this:
“Everybody gets a second in the sun / I have a feeling mine has just begun” - Lyrics from “Music Non Stop” (English version) by Kent
The Swedish and English versions of the song aren’t even remotely similar. I don’t know a thing about writing song lyrics, but it’s all a bit weird. I’m not sure how much releasing English versions of their albums actually helped Kent grow their fanbase internationally, but I doubt that it had any real effect since they abandoned that particular strategy after the release of the English version of Hagnesta Hill in 2000.
While Kent has given me lots of great musical experiences, their departure is no great loss. For me, personally, they might have retired 10 years ago, without it making much difference. That said, they are leaving behind a great legacy as one of the most prominent Scandinavian rock bands. I wouldn’t be too surprised if we’re seeing a reunion tour within the next five years, people who have worked together for as long as the members of Kent have tend to come together again after a while.
If you argue that Kent’s lyrics often don’t make much sense anyway, I wouldn’t blatantly disagree with you. ↩︎