Rhythm & Views
SEPTEMBER 8, 1998:
Payin' the Dues
IT'S BEEN TOO long since I heard a present-day band kickin' this much rock-and-roll ass. This album is the shit! The Hellacopters have a serious Detroit sound--guitars heavy, low-ended and back-breaking, with Stooge-like feedback and a total Radio Birdman attack. They're all about rockin' and rollin' motor-rock style, frequently mentioned in the same sentence as Turbo Negro, Nashville Pussy, and the Quadrajets, as far as their common no-shit attitude and ear-piercing thunder. The Hellacopters are the leaders in a small trend to resurrect the bottomed-out, shit-kicking guitar speed of heavy metal pioneers like AC/DC and Motorhead, and the thudding groove of Deep Purple and Sonic's Rendezvous Band.
From the album's first cut, "You Are Nothin'," the Hellacopters shove their I'm-at-the-end-of-my-rope-but-I'm-still-better-than-you noise in your face and you can't help but agree. Every song is a smirk. "Hey!" is among the best of loud, no-apology freak-outs while "Where the Action Is" announces the ultimate rock-and-roll truth: "Same old song but it can't go wrong!"
Unfortunately, Sweden's Hellacopters are still relatively underexposed, and it's been hard to find their stuff stateside (or at least locally). Luckily, their popularity is slowly making a slew of recordings more accessible to fans. You can also hear a cut of theirs on the Gearhead/Lookout! compilation All Punk Rods, as well as a recently issued 7-inch on Estrus.
WHEN YOU'RE FINISHED gazing at the attractive front side of Vihma, give it a 180-degree whirl and you'll stumble upon a slew of 17-letter words that appear more like additives and preservatives than song titles. Fear not, though--once the Värtinnä-induced vibrations reach your eardrums you'll be creating your own 17-letter words in an attempt to sing along.
The nine-piece Finnish ensemble paints from a family-sized palette of instruments as it glides fluently through a well-produced collection of tightly woven melodies. Aside from the chamber of harmonizing vocalists, the band introduces the sounds of bouzoukis, kavals, torupills, berimbaus, kanteles and cümbüs tanburs. You'll most likely fail at identifying which is which, but try not to cry. Just take it in slowly until the more recognizable saxophones and accordions kick in.
Värtinnä is a beautiful specimen of traditional and contemporary music naturally blended. So much so, you might be persuaded that Martha Stewart had a hand in the construction of this culminating body of work.
SO THIS HACK is listening to Garbage's Version 2.0, and at one point he's duped into thinking it's The Pretenders, or maybe it's Folk Implosion, no, wait, it's The Bangles...and Curve! And soon it becomes painfully obvious that Version 2.0 isn't really an album, but a musical inbreeding experiment...and soon the singer, Shirley Manson, is repeatedly grunting, "Sweat it all out!"...and instead of some angst-ridden vixen, she sounds more like a bored sorority girl standing in front of a microphone, filing her nails and complaining that she's already done eight takes...and the hack who's still listening to all this remembers hearing something about these savvy, middle-aged record producers from Wisconsin who decided to form their own band and recruited some unknown Eurotrash babe named Shirley to star in their videos, and it all starts to make sense. At a certain point he can't take any more, and he rips the disc from the machine and promptly escorts it to the local record store and gleefully hands it over for $5 in credit, even though the evil thing cost him $15 a few days earlier, and when the clerk asks him what he didn't like about it, he hears himself muttering something about "derivative, manipulative horseshit," and he figures the next time he wants to blow $10 on a similar exorcism, he'll buy a jar of laxatives and spend the spare change on something infinitely more productive, like maybe a 12-pack of Meisterbraü.
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