The Rabbit Hole, Vol. 4: Finns!!!

The definition of a Rabbit Hole is similar to this: Used to refer to a bizarre, confusing, or nonsensical situation or environment, typically one from which it is difficult to extricate oneself.

While listening to music doesn’t seem like something bizarre or confusing, what I do can often be nonsensical and difficult to get myself out of, so I think it fits many of the treks I do through the Tidal streaming service. This series should be no different.

What I’m simply planning on doing with this series is having someone recommend a starting record, listening to that on Tidal and then using the “Similar Artists” algorithm to go down the rabbit hole and see what records it leads me to. The trek will continue until I hit an album that is either A) so great that there’s no reason to move forward, B) so bad that it derails me or C) feels like a natural end point. In the end, we’ll see how the records hold up and how solid the connections are.

So, to begin:

  • Lordi – Killection

So I wasn’t intending on starting a Rabbit Hole volume with Lordi in the least bit but this is the crazy shit that I end up getting into. So this Lordi record just came out on January 31st, 2020 and it’s um, unique. If you don’t know Lordi, they are a heavy metal band from Finland that wear masks and horror outfits on stage that lead singer, Mr. Lordi makes himself for each band member. Back in 2006, these fuckers unexpectedly won the yearly Eurovision Song Contest which Finns normally place either last or very close to it every year with some of the cheesiest shit you’d ever hear. Yet somehow these guys came on stage with their masks and hard rock and took the thing. It’s kind of like Jethro Tell winning the metal Grammy. So here we are in 2020, they are on their 10th record and on what can only be described as a “unique” concept record. This is supposedly a fake compilation of hits and Lordi recorded new songs as they would have sounded had the band existed from the early 70s to mid-90s before they existed. So you get stuff like the the Rob Zombie clone and odd “Shake the Baby Silent” followed by “Like a Bee to the Honey” an early 80s track with a bunch of horns, written back in the day by GD Paul Stanley and never released by Kiss, so um, Lordi got it. There’s lo-fi 70s rock (“Blow My Fuse”) 90s power metal (“I Dug A Hole in the Yard For You”) a track that sounds just like “Looks that Kill” by Motley Crue (“Up to No Good”) and seriously, motherfucking disco (“Zombimbo”). It’s not in any chronological order and there’s interludes from a fake DJ that are incredibly fucking bad, so it’s a really odd listen. That said, I’ve never heard of anything close to this concept – so honestly, good for Mr. Lordi for trying something and well, there’s some talent there that the band can play so many different styles on one disc. I have no idea what the market for this album is. I gather, no one. But hey, kudos buddy. No one ever did this before and no one will ever do this again.

So how does this turn into a Rabbit Hole? Well, I asked my pal Chris Dick (who you might recognize from his writing for Decibel Magazine and a bunch of great liner notes for metal bands) if he had heard the record and well, in no uncertain terms he told me to never ask him that again and proceeded to assault my ears with random links to youtube videos of what he just kept referring to as “Finns!!!”

So, down the “Finns!!!” Rabbit Hole we go.

  • Fredi – Parhaat päältaä2

Fredi (born Matti Kalevi Siitonen) was in the Eurovision song contest for a few years back in the late 60s and finished 11th in 1976 for his song “Pump Pump” at which point he looked like Kansas City Chiefs Head Coach Andy Reid. There’s a lot of fucking songs on this album so I take it to be a “Greatest Hits” of some sort but I don’t speak Finnish, so who the fuck knows. But the whole thing sounds like soft rock from the 60’s and 70s, maybe Finnish, maybe Air Supply with a flamenco song thrown in for good measure. But honestly, not as bad as I expected or maybe even wanted it to be. Watch the whole fucking video. Don’t cheat yourself out of this one.

  • Riki Sorsa – Desert of Love

That led to the 1981 Eurovision Song Contest participant, Riki Sorsa. He competed with a Finnish Reggae song (not a typo) and finished 16th that year out of 20 contestants. While I couldn’t find an album with that song on it, I did find Desert of Love, released in 1982, in English. His first four records were in English and then he released some in Finnish and some in Swedish. Desert of Love was his second album and actually is pretty good. Someone must have thought he had some crossover appeal to the US market because this record came out on Sony in the US. The disc feels like some kind of cross between Marshall Crenshaw and Billy Joel overall and fits right in with the sound of 1982. Now the bar in this rabbit hole has been raised.

  • Kirka – R.O.C.K.

So then Kirka actually finished 9th in the 1984 Eurovision contest and already had 13 light rock albums sung in Finnish, under his belt. The song that he performed for that was called “Hengaillaan” which was a light, fun, but pretty shitty early 80’s style pop song. Then of course, two years later, this guy decides to become a rock artist, releasing R.O.C.K. and singing in English. I guess with the success of Eurovision, many of these artists recorded in English afterwards, I supposed to try to get global play. And once again, like Riki Sorsa above, this could have been much worse. Featuring covers of “School’s Out” (Alice Cooper) and “Born to be Wild” (Steppenwolf) it was actually the originals which were decent enough to keep my interest. In fact, “Strangers in the Night” could pass for heavy metal. After this, he released another rock album in English called The Spell, then went back to lighter music in Finnish and Swedish, I think. I mean, I’m not going to listen to them to find out.

  • Catcat- Parhaat

From there we jump ahead to the 1994 contestant, Catcat. Catcat was a sister duo made up of Katja and Virpi Kätkä that released a handful of albums starting in the mid-90s through 2001. I think this is a hits collection that I’m listening to as it varies between light 90s pop and eurodance throughout the disc. The previous couple artists were interesting at least. These ladies are a third rate Ace of Base. Not much exciting here. This video is also gold. I have no idea what those background dancers are dancing to for much of the song but it can’t be this tune at all. And those dresses/lingerie/whatever they are. My lord.

  • Jari Sillanpää – Kaikkien aikojen parhaat

This guy was the Eurovision song contestant in 2004 where he finished 14th. I had to jump 10 fucking years in this contest from Catcat because frankly, the Finns never progressed past 1994 in their choices of songs. This guy doesn’t exactly break the mold either, creating Schlager music, which Wikipedia tells me is, “either sweet, sentimental ballads with a simple, catchy melody or light pop tunes.” So again, fucking Air Supply. But really after listening, this is Air Supply mixed with Ricky Martin!

  • Hanna Pakarinen – Love in a Million Shades

Once Lordi hit the Eurovision contest in 2006, Finland started getting way more interesting in the contest. They progressed out of the 90s finally and into the 00s and the following year Hanna Pakarinin was the contestant representing the country. She performed a song called “Leave Me Alone” – with rock guitars, the group wearing all black everything and she had that hot, goth, Amy Lee type look. The music wasn’t very dark though – more of a pop rock sound but at least sounding like she belonged in music at that time. Love in a Million Shades is the one album I could find on Tidal from that era and was released in 2009 on RCA in Finland. Apparently this album derailed her career as this was her first album in four tries that didn’t go gold in her homeland and only sold 7,000 copies. I have no idea why of course, as this this is a rabbit hole trek with artists that I know nothing at all about but the album itself is pretty solid, mixed with pop-rock tunes and sweet ballads that very well could have been on US radio if the album had made it over to the states.

  • Teräsbetoni – Myrskyntuoja

In 2008, the Finns!!! went back to heavy metal to try to recapture some of that 2006 magic in the content and well, Teräsbetoni finished 22nd. Let’s face it, Lordi kind of sucks but they put on a fucking spectacle, so after that, isn’t all metal that follows kind of tame? But I give it to them for trying and also for putting metal in a show like this in the first place. They competed with a song called “Missä miehet ratsastaa” which actually is on this record. This was their third of four records in their short career but win or lose (and mostly lose) in the Eurovision Song Contest, just the exposure itself got people paying attention, even if only for a hot minute. This album went to #1 in Finland and is actually very good. The Wikipedia page says they were influenced by Manowar which is never a good thing to read but these guys at least knew how to play their instruments. This is a solid Power Metal album from start to finish, very typical of the genre.

  • Krista Siegfrids – Ding Dong!

And now that we’ve got some metal back out of the way, we go back to beautiful Finns!!! instead. Krista Siegfrids is actually a TV star in Finland and has just one album, the fantastically titled Ding Dong! from back in 2013. She finished 24th in the 2013 Eurovision Song Contest with her single “Marry Me.” Although she kind of looked like a 17-year old Avril Lavigne on the cover of the album, she was actually 28 at the time of the recording. Though not fake punk like Avril was at the start of her career, there’s certainly a bit of that feel to the record but more so, Siegfrids sounded a lot like Ke$ha. Snotty, fun, #nofucksgiven dance-pop. I haven’t had a lot of chance to say it over the years but I love Kesha. So, this album is right up my alley and it’s damn good, in fact it’s going to easily be my favorite one in this rabbit hole. It’s even funny to hear a Donald Trump reference in her song “Money.”

And with that, I’m crawling out of the rabbit hole on this one. I’m confident that nothing I listen to from this point forward is going to match the quality of the Krista Siegfreds record, so let’s call this chapter closed.

The Rabbit Hole, Vol. 3

The definition of a Rabbit Hole is similar to this: Used to refer to a bizarre, confusing, or nonsensical situation or environment, typically one from which it is difficult to extricate oneself.

While listening to music doesn’t seem like something bizarre or confusing, what I do can often be nonsensical and difficult to get myself out of, so I think it fits many of the treks I do through the Tidal streaming service. This series should be no different.

What I’m simply planning on doing with this series is having someone recommend a starting record, listening to that on Tidal and then using the “Similar Artists” algorithm to go down the rabbit hole and see what records it leads me to. The trek will continue until I hit an album that is either A) so great that there’s no reason to move forward, B) so bad that it derails me or C) feels like a natural end point. In the end, we’ll see how the records hold up and how solid the connections are.

So, to begin:

It’s beginning as an emo rabbit hole. I really wanted to go back and listen to Jimmy Eat World’s Clarity and see how well it’s held up, so that’s my starting point. Razorblades have been locked up.

  • Jimmy Eat World – Clarity

If you were ever into Emo, then I feel you almost have to like Clarity. It’s the last pure Emo disc that I think Jimmy Eat World ever did and is one of the best all time in the genre. If there’s a perfect emo record, I haven’t heard it, but this is close. Bleed American is the better record in Jimmy Eat World’s catalog but the rock nature of that record took a bit of the emo edge off (IMO). However, Clarity was very overlooked back in the day. I remember playing the shit out of this at WTSR when I was a DJ – specifically “Lucky Denver Mint” and “For Me This is Heaven” but especially the former which still holds up well today and to me is the best song ever made within the Emo genre. This and their previous record were on Capitol which didn’t do a great job promoting this record and/or signed them a bit too early before the genre had really formed as when they moved to Dreamworks for Bleed American, they blew up.

I’d like to think that “Lucky Denver Mint” could have been a huge hit if the video was even remotely good. Check out this piece of shit below, in an era where MTV made bands.

  • Dashboard Confessional – The Places You Have Come To Fear the Most

Holy shit, this was hard to listen to. Lead singer Chris Carrabba is the poster child for Emo music and Dashboard Confessional is the first band I think of when the genre is mentioned. I was never in the scene, so I could be totally wrong but when I think Emo, I think of teens that hate life so bad that they can’t get out of bed. I really don’t think I’m that far off, though I’m sure that doesn’t represent everyone. And Emo was supposed to be relatable because it talked about the agony and despair that you were feeling when you listened to it. I get that this was supposed to be the comfort for the people immersed in the culture and probably helped a lot of people through hard times. But as someone that was happy at this point in my life, Carrabba comes across to me as a whiny little oh-wow-is-me screamer. Just the painful screaming (and I mean screaming) to end the final track, “This Bitter Pill” is off-putting to me. It’s bright and sunny today and yet this record brought me down, down, down. Maybe you had to live it to understand.

“This Bitter Pill”
  • Matchbook Romance – Stories and Alibis

Funny to see this on Epitaph but Emo seemed to branch out a bit form post-hardcore at some point and the louder emo bands seem to have a slight element of punk now and again, so I guess it makes sense to an extent – or Epitaph just had to cash in on the craze.

So the algorithm moved me from Dashboard Confessional to Matchbook Romance. Again, having never been into the sound, I had no idea who these guys were. The ever-so-fun Wikipedia tells me that they had a total of two records, this being their first. And this is a paint-by-numbers version of what Emo rock is to me. Pained screams, the world sucks, I suck and man, nothing is going right. Check out “The Greatest Fall” for all of that rolled up into one.

“The Greatest Fall”
  • Brand New – Deja Entendu

I had a few choices from Tidal to go to next but I chose Brand New because I had heard of them before and might have even listened to this album in the past. After getting through this, I knew more songs than I would have expected to, so I must have popped it in at some point in time. I figured this might be the best chance moving forward in this rabbit hole, of actually liking one of these albums. And I was sort of right. There are moments like “Me vs. Maradona vs. Elvis” that I hate but ones like “Okay, I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don’t” which are pretty damn cool. This is a combo of alt rock and Emo, leaning more to the emo side, especially on the ballads. This also marks the first disc in this post that has what I like to call “Fall Out Boy titles.” You know, 10 word titles that really don’t pertain to the song but might be kind of clever in a dad joke kind of way, titles. I know, I know – that didn’t start with Fall Out Boy but over the years I can’t think of a bigger band that has had such ridiculous titles and there a lot of branches of Emo that have that as well.

“Okay, I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don’t”
  • Fall Out Boy – From Under the Cork Tree

Shit, might as well hit Fall Out Boy since they are connected to literally every band in here according to Tidal. I’m actually a casual Fall Out Boy fan and by casual, I mean I like their recent material and their greatest hits discs are pretty fantastic. It wasn’t like I always liked them though. I very much thought they were pretentious douchebags with their stupid ass titles like the opening track, “Our Lawyer Made Us Change the Name of this Song.” But then I realized that I also might be a douchebag (but not pretentious motherfucker…) and came to the realization that they are actually a pretty fun band. It never made me go back and listen to their earliest records, like this one, but I don’t actively turn the radio off when I hear them now. So that’s something.

The album itself isn’t terrible but isn’t great either but I have a new appreciation for the singles at least, since I’ve stopped being full of myself and just started enjoying music. The hardest part for me is actually telling you what songs I liked since only the singles like “Dance, Dance” and “Sugar, We’re Goin Down” actually have the title in the song. So I’d have to go back and listen to see if I liked “I’ve Got a Dark Alley and a Bad Idea That Says You Should Shut Your Mouth (Summer Song)” or “I Slept with Someone in Fall Out Boy and All I Got Was This Stupid Song Written About Me.” And really, I’m not listening twice. I’ll stick with the newer stuff.

“Sugar, We’re Goin Down”
  • Simple Plan – No Pads, No Helmets…Just Balls

I think with that, I’m likely firmly out of the emo and now into the 2000’s pop-punk bands and I’m not sure this works for me. I was talking about this sound the other week with a buddy and was just commenting how dated it is. And this album is totally dated to the early 2000s. I thought I had listened to this album in the past but I don’t recognize anything but the singles “Addicted” and “Perfect.” I suppose back in 2002, I could have listened to this and enjoyed it but it seems like really generic and juvenile to me now. Damn it, I sound old, don’t I?

“Perfect”
  • Biffy Clyro – The Vertigo of Bliss

Up until now, I had only heard the name Biffy Clyro but never any of their music. Now that I have, I have no idea how the algorithm of “Similar Bands” to Simple Plan got me here. I see places where they are labeled as post hardcore, so maybe that’s it. Maybe I just picked the wrong album but if everything sounds like this – which is hard to describe really – some blend of avant-garde alt-rock, maybe a bit of post-hardcore, maybe a bit of noise rock, maybe a slight pop-punk feel once in a while – then the connection is lost on me. Every now and then I got a bit of a Jawbox feel or maybe a Local H vibe but then they go promptly in a different direction. I like unique bands and this seems like the type that I might go back to and listen to the other records to see what they’re about – but in this context, I just wasn’t feeling it. In looking at the singles from this record, I see the first one was called “Toys Toys Toys Choke, Toys Toys Toys.” Not sure how in the world anyone thought that would be the title of a hit song but you know, “MMM MMM MMM MMM” became a hit, so I guess you never know. Unfortunately, while this makes for a short rabbit hole, this was the derailer for me. So rabbit hole #3 stops here.

“Toys Toys Toys Choke, Toys Toys Toys”