Architecture in Helsinki In Case We Die

[Bar None; 2005]

Rating: 1.5/5

Styles: electro-pop, cute-pop, cartoon pop rock
Others: Ninetynine, Belle & Sebastian, The Go-Betweens , Banana Splits, Muffs


There is a really bad humor writer for the Hartford Courant.

Every sentence that he writes warrants a new paragraph.

He is also missing one of the key qualifications of being a humor writer -- a sense of humor. His typical topics include his 20-something college grad daughter, Michael Jackson, and Monica Lewinsky. The guy is so unfunny that I think he might be serious some times. If he ever recorded an album for Elephant 6, it would sound like In Case We Die by Architecture in Helsinki. He could definitely write lines like "You let me down lightly/ I killed you politely."

I don't know whether Architecture in Helsinki is for real or an ironic parody of the post-Arcade Fire indie rock scene. In Case We Die is their second album of bouncy cartoon rock. It sounds like a cross between Off the Wall-era Michael Jackson without the soul, the Banana Splits, the Grease soundtrack and shitty disco records.

Entrenched in this layered mess of instrumentals is the exact same formula for each song. Much of the album is overwrought instrumentally and just silly lyrically. The band uses a horn section to underscore virtually every riff, giving the songs the authentic feeling of a Reel Big Fish rip off. If the band wanted a psychedelic feel, they missed and hit the disco mark big time. If they added some fart noises, it would have been the perfect album for a six-year-old to groove on. In fact, many of the songs on this album are peppered with pop-punk Kid's Songs sing-a-long choruses. Even when the band leads up to something that may be interesting lyrically, they back away too quickly to tell whether it was sincere or just a happy accident. The opener, "Neverevereverdid," features a very creative first verse about "walking on the moon with your stalker." Where does the band go from there? Cue cartoon instrumental and shout along kiddie chorus. Everything but the kitchen sink to save the rhyme scheme seems to be a theme of the band's. I've heard little girls playing jump rope in my neighborhood and making rhymes that are better than "Silver never gets golder/ Baby when we get older/ We don't have to get colder."

In Case We Die is like Herb Albert covering the Arcade Fire or that humor writer for the Hartford Courant mimicking Hunter S Thompson: it does the job, if giving me a headache is the job at hand.

1. Nevereverdid
2. It's 5!
3. Tiny Paintings
4. Wishbone
5. Maybe You Can Owe Me
6. Do The Whirlwind
7. In Case We Die (parts 1-4)
8. The Cemetary
9. Frenchy, I'm Faking
10. Need To Shout
11. Rendezvous: Potrero Hill
12. What's In Store?
Fingers Crossed
Trifekta, 2003
rating: 4/5
reviewer: roman ping


Do you like handclaps? A Melbourne eight-piece with a pretentious name and a penchant for cute pop Architecture in Helsinki have completely and utterly "made with the handclaps" on their debut album.

With liberal use of said handclaps, along with breathy boy/girl voices, and plenty of glockenspiel, vibes, and other cute-pop must-haves, this eight piece from Melbourne has come good with an album that actually dares to make cutesy schoolyard pop the one thing that it usually isn't-- challenging. The songs are ambitious but also very carefully arranged. For example, in the hands of a lesser band "The Owls Go" would be a jumbling, chaotic mess, but instead the eight members of Architecture in Helsinki manage to weave electronic blips and whistles, various horns, call-and-response vocals in and out (and under and over) what is otherwise a simple acoustic power-pop jingle.

There are some bombastic moments such as the lively ode to firebugs "Kindling" or the instrumental opener "One Heavy February," but the most rewarding tracks are the subtler ones, such as "Souvenirs" or "Where You've Been Hiding," where the songs seem so fragile and momentary that you wonder if whether simply in the act of listening you might be damaging them somehow. Fingers Crossed won't appeal to all, especially if the idea of grown men and women channeling kindergarten kids makes you want to slap someone. But if you can handle a bit of pigtails, handclaps, and maybe even a thumb piano, you might not find a more finely crafted and rewarding pop record than this one this year.

1. One Heavy February
2. Souvenirs
3. Imaginary Ordinary
4. Scissor Paper Rock
5. To And Fro
6. Spring 2008
7. The Owls Go
8. Fumble
9. Kindling
10. It's Almost A Trap
11. Like A Call
12. Where You've Been Hiding
13. City Calm Down
14. Vanishing
1. Nevereverdid
2. It's 5!
3. Tiny Paintings
4. Wishbone
5. Maybe You Can Owe Me
6. Do The Whirlwind
7. In Case We Die (parts 1-4)
8. The Cemetary
9. Frenchy, I'm Faking
10. Need To Shout
11. Rendezvous: Potrero Hill
12. What's In Store?

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