Architecture in Helsinki
Better than: Jet, Silverchair and Air Supply
Review and Photos by Richard Gintowt
The word “twee” scares the fuck out of me. Not because I’m particularly scared of cute girls or striped sweaters, but because it usually implies other things like “amateur” and “sucky.” Architecture in Helsinki has been described as “twee,” but fortunately they are neither amateur nor sucky.
First, a few thoughts on the opening acts. This is Panther. They’re from Portland.
Panther consisted of one dude trolling the stage with a microphone and another dude kicking out tight drum beats to loopy backing tracks. The singer may or may not have a background in ballet, because he channeled some pretty sweet ballerina moves. He sang about FAX machines and overdubbed his vocals into an echoplex nightmare. It’s getting harder and harder to keep up with what’s cool these days.
Next up was Glass Candy, who love robot music about as much as Ladytron or Kraftwerk. If the secret to having fun is to act like you’re not having any fun at all, then I guess Glass Candy is a lot of fun. The audience thought so, anyways. There were plenty of folks doing my favorite hipster dance – you know, the one where they half-heartedly allow their body to sway side-to-side despite their complete detachment from the situation. By the end of the set it looked like a full-on zombie rave.
Now on to the main event. Architecture in Helsinki is from Australia, and that may have something to do with the band’s arsenal of world-beat percussion (congas, cowbells, whistles, jam blocks, agogo bells, synth claps, etc). Every song featured two or more percussionists creating a groove akin to Talking Heads or Dogs Die in Hot Cars – a level of funkiness that I hardly expected. Regardless of what you think of AIH’s records (hit-and-miss affairs), they are an irrefutably fun live band.
AIH played nothing off its first record Fingers Crossed, which is probably a good thing since I put it on en route to the show and it bored me to death. By most accounts, the group’s second record, In Case We Die, is the money shot. It received plenty of attention, with songs like "The Cemetery" and "Frenchy, I’m Faking" getting the best crowd response.
More so than many groups that claim to be some sort of “collective”, AIH proved adept at switching instruments and not losing a step. I love it when bands incorporate trombone – provided somebody can actually play the damn thing. Each of the six members played a pivotal role, though lead singer Cameron Bird was by far the best-dressed member of the ensemble.
I thought about picking up one of these AIH shirts on the way home. In the end, I was just glad it didn’t serve as summary of the evening.
Personal bias: Self-consciously hip music gives me the heebie jeebies (applicable to the first two bands perhaps, but prolly not Architecture in Helsinki).
Favorite lyric: My Grandma / Ow! / Your Grandma / Ow! (Glass Candy)