Album Review: Arre! Arre! – We Ride The Universe

[PNKSLM; 2022]

Malmö punks Arre! Arre! are riding off into the sunset. Engines revving, they’re leaving a dust trail behind them as they call a wrap on almost 10 years of being together. After gaining traction with a ‘Rock Album Of the Year’ award at the Swedish P3 Guld Awards for their punchy 2019 album Tell Me All About Them, the four piece have said they’ll still keep making music as they please, but are calling time on hitting the live circuit and churning out albums. Their swan song as they say their goodbyes? We Ride The Universe: a succinct record strung together with songs about motorcycles and female biker gangs that might pack a few expected punches, but is missing the visceral, denouncing fire that made Arre! Arre! turn heads in the first instance.

Whereas on their aforementioned and acclaimed 2019 album they were celebrating their favourite female figures and calling out all the shitty men in society, on We Ride The Universe the fixation is more trying to capture a sort of nostalgia. The band have snarl enough to pull off the punk biker gang look and style (they even recorded local bikers driving about the car park outside the studio to add into multiple songs here), but this makes for punk rock that rings that bit more empty than what we’ve come to expect from Arre! Arre!.

“If you’re looking for a good time / Just come around and we’ll take you for a ride,” they chant on the title track. Likewise, on “Lovers Town” they invite, “Come on baby / Come on, hold on tight / I wanna take you for a hell of a ride.” Their sexual innuendo game is still there, but they were equally funnier and more discerning when they were telling direct stories of almost suffocating someone while getting head. Equally on “Queens of the Road” they declare they are “looking like a streak of lightning” as they “ride those endless roads.” It’s fitting to the theme, sure, but at the same time feels miles off the important messages they were spouting in past years.

To their benefit, there is still haranguing to be done. On “Crazy Ex Girlfriend” there’s no time to be had for a badmouthing ex spreading lies about being “unbearable… fucking hysterical” while on “Fucking Beast” they interrogate “where do you get off?” amidst a ferocious tempo of guitars, like they are working against a time limit. “Good Cop? Bad Cop?” makes no surprises in calling out the police state (“You’re all fucking dirty to me”), but the “Seven Nation Army” riffing is the part that sticks in mind. These instances of calling out injustices in the world (be they personal, patriarchal, or planetary) feel like few and far between moments though, even for an album that’s just shy of being 25 minutes long.

Still, there’s credit to be given where it is very much due. The 60s surf rock-inspired “Lovers Town”, with its skittering cymbal and hi-hat hits from drummer Henrietta Edlund, is a broadening homage – even if the motorcycle metaphors fall flat. Similarly the noirish flair through the undercurrent of “Midnight Rider” feels like a sound world unexplored, even if the song isn’t the deepest offering from the band. Best of all here though is “May The Road Rise To Meet You”, a stirring send off managing to marry the thematic metaphors with a take on grief and hope for the future; it shows that their adopted style here doesn’t have to be corny and that real emotion can still take the lead.

And even when the songs aren’t mining any deep territory, the four piece are wildly efficient; there are few bands who feel like they pack so much into two minutes. Opening track “Ride Or Die” might be little more than a call to arms (complete with their signature band name shout), but by the end of it you feel like you’ve covered more ground than you have. “Come Hell Or High Water” almost begs for more time to play on, the screeching guitar sadly not leant into and let to devour the track completely.

The theme, one could surmise then, is fitting in some ways. It’s a rather literal way of emphasizing that Arre! Arre! are indeed riding off into the sunset, that they are taking the road elsewhere instead of coming to a stop. (Members of the band have their own solo projects, Katja Nielsen as She/Beast and Henrietta Edlund as Totta, for instance.) We Ride The Universe might not be their strongest offering, and may lean into being a little thematically overdone, but the band were all about making “no-nonsense punk with a political bent” from the moment of their creation. The political bent might be missing for a good part here, but they’re living up to the other part. History will remember them as punks until the end – or at least until they ride into town again.