Review: Love Is All; April 17, 2010; Casbah, San Diego

Photos by Eleanore Park

It was after 11 on a Saturday, but the Casbah was relatively empty. The only people in attendance at the usually crowded venue were those who had stayed in town instead of venturing out to Coachella, but weren’t too tuckered out from excessive Record Store Day vinyl consumption.

Despite the sparse crowd and last-minute cancellation of opening act Dum Dum Girls (announced only by a sad flier taped to the front of the door — “due to illness”), Love is All soldiered through the second to last performance on their North American tour. The Gothenburg, Sweden quintet put on a vibrant, polished pop-punk show that recalled the high-energy soundscapes and female-led vocals of 90s bands like Julie Ruin.

The furious background momentum of drummer Markus Görsch seamlessly accompanied Josephine Olausson’s manic, whimsical vocals. His sticks were a flurry of wooden trails, their motion an impossible blur to the inadequate shutter speed of the human eye. Throughout the night, the pairing of Görsch and Olausson fueled the infectious choruses of songs like “Early Warnings,” “Kungen,” and “Bigger Bolder,” the opening track off their newest album, Two Thousand and Ten Injuries.

Americans may be quick to dismiss Love is All as another sum of the tried-and-true Swedish formula that combines twee-drenched undertones with dancey pop beats, but Love is All reward repeat listens. Olausson’s playful, anxiety-ridden vocals captivate as they bend and stretch around the lyrics, and the band’s prominent use of saxophone adds a unique flavor to their punk rock palette.

That sort of originality separates — and saves — them from the stereotypical Scandinavian pop-scape, distinguishing them from other, much-hyped bands coming out of Gothenburg like JJ and Sambassadeur. Love is All are engaged live performers capable of entrancing large, packed venues — or, as was the case on Saturday, a small group of individuals lucky enough to make the show.

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