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The Fantastic Five

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The album that comes out this week, State of the Ark, is the band’s third and the first one available in the U.S. The tunes have a harder rock edge, and the lyrics are sharper and funnier, as in “One of Us Is Gonna Die Young” and “This Piece of Poetry Is Meant to Do Harm.” Salo bravely attempts a software metaphor (“I don’t want the trust than can be bought / My kind of trust is shareware”) and shows a touch of pique in “Rock City Wankers,” a rebuke of rock stars who glamorize their own bad behavior (“Try some manners, fuckface”).

Accustomed to stadium mobs in Europe, the Ark are back to grinding it out in the clubs and making the best of the conditions they encounter. At the recent South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, they played an afternoon gig at an outdoor barbecue, to a crowd of hangover-nursing zombies. This might have been an excuse to mail one in, but Ola would do no such thing. “He started jumping on the picnic tables,” says Schlegel. “Tacos went flying.”

John Cameron Mitchell, the creator of Hedwig, was an early convert to the Ark, picking two of Salo’s songs for his next movie, Shortbus, and hosting them at a private show last month on the Lower East Side where Salo climbed up onto the ceiling pipes during the set. “I’ve gotten a lot of people into them,” says Mitchell. “If people meet them halfway, they’ll do great here.”

Before coming to America, the Ark had a pretty idyllic existence. “We had Scandinavia and then we had Italy, where we could go for the sun and the food and to lip-synch in front of 20,000 people, which they make us do there,” says Salo. “So we don’t need America. But America might need us.”


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