MIDI MAXI AND EFTI – “Bad Bad Boys” (aka PopNose13)

So Mark S messaged me – “Have you ever heard of Midi Maxi And Efti?”. I had not. He told me he hadn’t either – except he dimly remembered Frank Kogan raving about them. I was intrigued. Partly because Frank Kogan is worth paying attention to, partly because of the band’s name. Generally with names you can have a guess at what you’re going to hear. The last track I’d downloaded blind had been “The Groke” by Frost Jockey – I was expecting something chilly and electronic and that is what I’d got. But Midi Maxi and Efti? It sounded like an Eastern Bloc cartoon series – could be anything!

It turned out to be Swedish Reggae – result! I have grown very fond of early 90s Euro-rap – that combination of disco, digital skank, pop know-how and deadpan naif vocals you hear on Dr. Alban and Ace Of Base records. The appeal of European pop is always part-projected: I want to believe in a version of pop uncontaminated by notions of artistry and driven by novelty. The reality is much more complex.

It strikes me that there are at least two strains in what I think of as ‘Europop’. The first is deliberately artificial, extravagant, bizarre – Aqua, Eiffel 65, the bombast of snap, the tottering kitsch of Army Of Lovers, Alcazar’s disco follies. The second is down-to-earth – Lene Nystrom singing about office sauce; dental student Dr. Alban rapping about his producer’s flat and young son; Midi Maxi And Efti and their songs which sound like beginner’s EFL exercises.

MM and E are three girls from Eritrea who came to Sweden (according to their excellent self-titled album) ‘six years ago’, which would have been 1985. They sing about friends and boyfriends and making music, sometimes about their homeland. “Bad Bad Boys”, their easiest song to find because of a soundtrack appearance, is typical – a sizeable hook and a weird vocal style, like bored playground chanting. The album is based pretty heavily on pop-reggae but each track adds something fresh to keep the hooks sharp and the interest alive – there are a couple of wonderful shimmering songs that sound like a bubblegum Orb.

There’s something childlike about the record which makes me suspicious of myself for liking it. It has that just-discovered-music feel that The Shaggs are supposed to have – except of course The Shaggs are just strange kids making an awful racket whereas Midi Maxi And Efti are backed up by a pretty slick operation, including Stakka Bo and members of the Army Of Lovers. So I like to think that what I’m hearing is an enthusiasm for pop that speaks to my own.