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My New Found Appreciation For Finnish Rock, and Suomirokki, Finnrock

Let me explain this to yer foreigners...

The Finnish musical landscape, when right in the middle of it, can be depressing, particularly in the 80’s. By the end of the 90’s, things got SIGNIFICANTLY better, but before that happened, it was quite a challenge. When I moved to Australia and gained some perspective and, more to the point, got to a SAFE DISTANCE from my home sweet home, I started listening to suomirokki for the first time. It was a way to not only be nostalgic but to process the feelings that I had about my home. Only after I realized how different my nation was to Australia when I started to see the beauty in the lyrics and the unique sounds.

(My voices are objecting, loudly. They say I’m putting it on, that I’m pretending it was this awful place of no civilization or sophistication, and that everything was dire and gloomy, when in fact it was a thriving small town… Whatever. You know what the normies EVERYWHERE say. Paraphrasing Kurt Cobain’s mom: “We lived in a lovely town with everything you could possibly hope for. You’d walk through the town and there’d be people shopping and paying their bills…” You know, what could POSSIBLY motivate a young man to go mental in that environment? People were paying their bills, after all, life is beautiful! Yeah. My hometown wasn’t any gloomier than Kurt Cobain’s, William B. Rose’s, or Steven Tallarico’s, but they’d all have a thing or two to say about the mentality of their hometowns, too.)

Anyway. The whole sound of Finnish rock is different

Finnish rock sounds homespun. Probably, because it largely is. It is raw, at least used to be, there were no massive forces behind the productions, they were happy to record something somehow a lot of the times. That gives a mixture of absolute rubbish to some gems…

However, I can’t name every band and artist that deserves a mention, Finland has an amazing heavy metal scene and I don’t even know all the bands that have popped up since I left… But here’s for starters. I should, actually, do some searching on YouTube for some stuff I haven’t heard of before, but I haven’t yet, so much to do, so much music to listen to – and I love playing the same songs over and over. I’m like that…

There are some bands and artists who deserve to be on the list but who I simply forgot while wrote the post or simply don’t like that much personally. This is, after all, kind of a personal list.

Where should we start?

Yö: Joutsenlaulu – Swans Song

I believe that not many Finns would object if I said this is one of the most important pieces in Finnish rock, and if someone would object, they’d probably be given a snägäriheijari without further ado.

Yö, the name of the band, translates as night and sounds like you’re vomiting. 😀

The lyrics tell a story of a widower of five years who sits by the window flipping through her photo album over and over… While watching her neighbors’ children play, implying she never had children of her own, but at least she experienced the love story of a century.

Pelle Miljoona: Moottoritie on Kuuma – The Motorway Burns

The second indisputable Finnish classic is Moottoritie on Kuuma by Pelle Miljoona (Clown Million). In this song Pelle, or the “I” in the song, describes the need to see the world, the need to leave people who love him. He describes how he must see things for himself before he believes a word anyone tells him about the world. Need to travel, need to go…

After these two, we will run into a national argument over which individual songs should be showcased on a list like this. We will agree on bands, probably, but not necessarily which songs by these bands should be on the list. However, as I am in charge here, I’ll do as I please.

Hurriganes – Get On

Yeah, I spelled that correctly. The story behind this band is hilarious. The singer couldn’t speak a word of English. Not A Word. They were convinced, however, that to have a chance of success, the songs would have to be sang in English. So the guitarist, Albert Järvinen would write the lyrics down for their singer Cisse Häkkinen (at the time) in Finnish alphabet. He would read them in Finnish phonetics and alphabet, with the help of his musical ear, but not understand a word he was singing.

Doing this, he picked up some common phrases and learned them. This clip was apparently a complete improvisation. They were at a recording studio and had a few minutes left on the track. To fill that space, they decided to play Johnny B. Goode riffs and reword it ON THE FLY. This is apparently, or so the story goes, a result of one take. Pay attention to the phrases that don’t necessarily quite match, finish properly, or even make sense.

Lauri Tähkä – Pauhaava Sydän (A roaring heart)

Roaring in the sense of rapids or falls roaring…

First, I will have to acknowledge the objection of  my fellow Finns who will wonder why this song is on this list and why so early on. I agree this is a wild jump to something completely different, but this song has a personal meaning to me. Tähkä sings with my dialect. The R is how you pronounce my real name. Good luck with that.

The scenery is very homely to me, and the language… Home. This dude… Haha, perfection, isn’t he? 😉

Waltari – Cradle

Waltari, named after our Noble Litterature Price winner Mika Waltari, (I think), is not really a suomirokki band, they’re a Finnish band, but their genre is “disco metal” according to them. This band is The Best Live Band ever if you manage sitting still throughout… Well, you’d be probably a regular Finn not drunk yet. I’ve seen them live so many times… And one thing I should have known to pack into the car is a neck brace for the aftermath. Moshing (yeah I know kids probably don’t ‘mosh’ anymore) that hard for an hour and a half or two will make your neck useless for a couple of days after.

It’s amazing anything that energetic would emerge from our shores. I feel tempted to add a few song links, but I’ll just encourage YouTubing.

Apocalyptica – Not Strong Enough

Still, in the category of not real suomirokki, Apocalyptica is a cello quartet, with some help. These guys met at a classical music university in Oulunkylä. While mucking about with their instruments, they started playing Metallica (One, probably) and wound up forming… A metal band.

I could pick a number of tracks, but I just have to have a soft spot for this one.

I know a former friend of mine appears on some of these videos, but with all that makeup, who can tell which one she is on. I have a sneaking suspicion it’s this one. 😀

Kolmas Nainen – Tästä Asti Aikaa

Back to bonefied suomirokki, Kolmas Nainen (The 3rd Woman) is one of my personal favorites. My ex-boyfriend, (the first one ever) described them perfectly at the mature age of 19; “They sound like a gramma’s country kitchen. One with flower patterned curtains and coffee in the maker.”

Indeed they do sound like it.

This song is a story of a guy reminiscing his teen year’s friends, the antics they got up to home at the countryside… The chorus goes; “I’ve got time from here on to the end. My heart only half-filled, as much coffee and tobacco as I can stomach…”

Eppu Normaali – Murheellisten Laulujen Maa

That’s Eppu Normal, the song is titled The Country of Sorrowful Songs. This song tells a story of a man who loses his job, driving him to drinking and eventually murdering his family… Or at least thinking about it or trying to. One of my favorite lines, however, given how much I Fucking Hated the Finnish musical landscape growing up, the band references one of these torturous songs. “Jonka lauluissa hukkuvat elämän valttikortit” “songs in which the cards of power are getting lost…” yeah I guess it makes no sense.

Eppu Normaali was actually the first ever (professional) band I saw play live. I remember being chatted up by a guy not realizing that’s what he was doing (one of those stories), he was enthusing about Eput being the best band ever, (aren’t they?) but I couldn’t confirm as I was there mainly to accompany my friend… Who would have agreed. 😀 This was at the time when I still was rather convinced I don’t like music much at all.

Dingo – Levoton Tuhkimo (Restless Cinderella)

Dingo was the Biggest Musical Phenomena to their date the country had ever seen. They were the first band that created actual hysteria around themselves. People went MENTAL. (Okay well Hanoi Rocks..? But Hanoi sang in English, which made them a bit different. I’ll get to Hanoi later.)

I am sure they would not like me to share this particular story about the band, but I was 8 or 10 and I think I was traumatized by this story… Not because what happened… But because I found myself thinking: “How fucking cool.” I think my own fascination with the story and the idea of dying like that shocked me. “Imagine making other girls that jealousFuuuuck.”

The band had gotten HUGE. Their #1 hit single, Autiotalo was a story of a guy who took his girlfriend into an abandoned building carrying her in his back… Suddenly I can’t phrase that in English. Anyway, he always asked a girl from the audience on the stage for that song. One evening, he pulled up a young girl, maybe 13, 14. The next day, her friends STONED HER TO DEATH at school because they were so jealous of her.

Needless to say, that was the last girl who got on stage. I would not be surprised if that was the thing that made the fun go away for the band, tho.

Hanoi Rocks, then

I have a weird relationship with this band. Before even knowing this band existed, I felt this enormous pull to move to Helsinki. This was before I turned to rock even, around age 13 or so, I remember feeling dazed and mesmerized by this energy that I felt to exist in Helsinki. I wanted to be close to it. Later, I have connected the dots. It was the energy of Hanoi Rocks, namely Mike and Andy, but also the fans, and the “scene”. It was almost NEEDY, “we need you here.” Wish I could have followed. (I was the kind of run away from home and join us energy, but I was too much of a nerd for such risks.)

The glam rockers are Gunner’s personal friends and have lived between LA and Helsinki since the 80’s earning them an ANNOYING American accent to their Finnish. 😉

Him – Wicked Game

I must confess I always hated the Chris Isaak’s original of Wicked Game. It was so effin’ whiney. Gave me the creeps. However, ever since HIM covered it, I’ve loved the song.

HIM is one of our biggest music imports, along with some of the above, but I can’t decide whether I like them or not. I feel like they underwrite and over-publish. They’re filling an entire CD with music it feels like, and it… Will start repetitive after a while… Just saying. It annoys me. They’re so good, but nobody is as good as filling an entire CD with “love metal” every couple of years. (Aerosmith after an 8-year break maybe, but noooo.)

Anyway. This guy and his voice. Whatever else…

And there’s another interesting cover Ville Valo has made without the band.

J. Karjalainen – Merenneitoni ja minä (My Mermaid and I)

Merenneitoni ja minä is a humorous story of J. Karjalainen (as himself) meeting a mermaid, who asks him to visit her at her home. While J. is worried about Ahti, the god of the oceans, and the father of the mermaid being home, but apparently Ahti had gone fishing. With everything else being OK, the mermaid wanrns him about the fishing hooks that can get real bad sometimes.

The song finishes with headlines reporting the death of J. Karjalainen, who apparently took his own life by drowning to boost his record sales during a personal slump. “Ei pysynyt pinnalla Karjalainen”, he says he can already see the headlines; Karjalainen couldn’t keep afloat after all…

Leevi and the Leavings – Teuvo

My dad would be offended by the comparison, and I don’t really mean this as a direct comparison either, but this song tells about a guy obsessed with winning a rally championship to his own downfall. He “practises” on the open roads winding up totalling more than one car. Eventually, he borrows his neighbor’s Anglia, and crashes a car “probably for the last time”. Previously, he had brushed off scratches and bruises as: “This ugly mug of mine will only benefit of a beautifying scar, and the dentist can always fix up your gril…”

I must say the fascination of most finnrock is the lyrics. They’re humorous and poignant, and I understand it’s really  hard to appreciate the Finnish language songs as they make no sense to a foreigner.

Popeda – Tahdotko mut tosiaan

This charming clip shows how the Finnish language trips even the masters of it. The singer Pate Mustajärvi introduces the song and slips up; “Tahdotko mut toisinaan” “Would you want me occasionally” as opposed to “do you really want me” as the actual title of the song translates. The audience doesn’t know if it’s okay to giggle. 😀

The song tells a story of a guy on the unemployment, who asks his girlfriend, who has, apparently, asked him to move in wth her, that is she serious, does she really want him, a day after day, in her life… Given he’s such a loser.

Uniklubi – Rakkautta ja Piikkilankaa

Dream club – Love and barb wire. I think you’d like it. There’s a nice tension and contradiction in the lyrics, love/hate thing as the title suggests.

Apulanta – Vasten Mun kasvojani

Apulanta (a type of fertilizer, lol) – in my face

An end of a relationship. There is such a beautiful raw line in this, during an argument he taunts her: (Go right ahead and) “Spit your objection/rebellion/answer right in my face!” (the word changes in different verses). Such a nice way to say it.

Kotiteollisuus – Tämän Taivaan Alla


Tämän taivaan alla tuuli puhaltaa/ se hakee vertaistaan/ ja pieni ihminen ristii kätensä rukoillakseen/ Mutta rukous on vain mutinaa tuulessa/ ei sitä kukaan kuule/ ja jos jostain joskus löytyy jumala/ ei se lapsekseen, kuvakseen minua tunnista.

Under ths sky a wind is blowing/ it seeks its equal/ and the mere mortal kneels in prayer / But prayer is simply muttering in the wind / nobody hears it / and if someone happens to find a god somewhere someday / He would not  recognize me as his child, in his image anyway.

I must say that I was listening to this song, and as God speaks to me often, and whenever I listen to anything, the people responsible are often pulled into the conversation… And God says: But sure I recognize you. You are not only one of my children, but one of my finest.


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