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More snow-capped rock from the frigid peaks of Scandinavia, this time from Norway, with a notable female presence that differs from the region's normal chest-beating male dynamic (as epitomized by the Hellacopters, Hives, etc.). Sweden's phenomenal Sierra Hotnights already proved that there was a place for feminine angst among the Nordic rock battalions, and Mensen continues along the same path of jet-fueled girl power. Not to say that Mensen is an all-girl band: bassist Rambling Roy is the token boy, fulfilling the same role as the male guitarist in Bikini Kill did -- a "silent" partner but no less important because of it.

Perhaps the best thing about a band like Mensen is that it transcends such gender considerations anyway. This album is simply great rock 'n' roll, following in the tradition of all the aforementioned bands and proving once again why the snow-capped region, with its frigid temps and liberal drug laws, has become the epicenter of hard rock. Oslo City is produced by the Hellacopters' Nicke Andersson, and his expert hand has steeled an opus that rivals the Hellacopters themselves with its surging tempos and flesh-flaying guitars. Since the sound is primarily being generated by women, comparisons to the Donnas and Sierra Hotnights are inevitable. Like those bands, Mensen possesses a melodic flair, epitomized on numbers like "The Night Before the Morning After," "The Hard Way," and "Sandy Starlight," while "Bosnia" has classic '60s "girl-group" and garage-rock qualities.

"Start Over Again" manages to combine the howl of the 'Copters with the Valkyriean Hall of the Mountain King aura of traditional Nordic mythology. "Twenty-One" is simply a great rock 'n' roll coming-of-age song, Ramonesean in its simplicity: "Twenty-one and you've just begun/Twenty-two don't know what to do/Twenty-three, you're feeling free/And twenty-four is such a bore." Such lyrics epitomize Mensen's youthful urgency. Valhalla awaits.

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Joe S. Harrington

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