Funny story about Rubik: Johannes Kinnunen, founder of the Finnish record label that launched the band, once told a journalist friend that the group was going to be “bigger than Radiohead.” It was an off-the-record hyperbole, so Kinnunen was more than a little surprised to see his comment reprinted in a major Helsinki newspaper just days later.
Comparing a band to Radiohead is about as quixotic as it gets. Still, Kinnunen may have been onto something. There are echoes of Thom Yorke’s complex, tightly reined compositional energy in Rubik’s new album, Dada Bandits
, which hit U.S. stores on September 15. (Not to tempt fate by mentioning that, on certain tracks, frontman Artturi Taira does sound disconcertingly like Thom Yorke.)
Listen to Dada Bandits
, though, and Radiohead’s not going to be the first thing that comes to mind. More likely it’ll be one of those younger, melodic indie bands whose stars have risen since Y2K: Arcade Fire (and its emotionally charged crescendos); Beirut (its bold brass underpinnings); Of Montreal (pretty much everything, save for the twee-ness). As if to confirm all these comparisons in one breath, the opening track on Dada Bandits
, “Goji Berries,” vacillates wildly between slamming guitar riffs, earnest piano interludes, and jaunty clarinet-backed swing sections.
All of which is fairly remarkable, considering the circumstances from which the five-piece emerged, back in 2003. It’s not easy being an indie band in Finland, a country so dominated by heavy metal that guide books prepare visitors for the shock of seeing frumpy moms with skull-and-crossbones-emblazoned handbags.
Which isn’t to say that Rubik is all sunshine and daisies—Taira and drummer Sampsa Väätäinen formed the band in the small northern hamlet of Kuopio, where in the winter the sun disappears for all but few hours a day. They’ve since relocated to Helsinki, however, one of the most cultured and design-savvy cities in Northern Europe, and have formed a collective with five more musicians. “We probably don't fall into that stereotype of being overly depressed, gloomy, or even alcoholic (sorry!!),” writes Taira in a recent email exchange. “I don't think we've ever approached our music or songwriting through our Finnishness—we've always wanted to belong to and even be a part of a more international heritage.”
Listening to Dada Bandits
, it’s hard not to feel that Rubik’s done more—rather than following international trends, they’re showing us all the way forward.
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