Architecture In Helsinki
rchitecture In Helsinki is the kind of band you want to bring home to mother. Breezy and melodic, cheerful and fey—maybe even Jewish!—and most of all, completely harmless. Plus, there are eight of them, so Mother needn’t worry about your guests not eating up all her food, and they’re great with children—tyke voices abound on their debut record Fingers Crossed. However, like most things Mom approves of, Architecture In Helsinki is as square as Tiananmen.
Perhaps the twee-est band on the current musical radar, Australia’s Helsinki creates innocuous dull-tronica using synths, horns, glockenspiels, cellos and—gosh, how cute—tap-dancing as percussion. The shtick wears thin by about the second track, partly due to tinny synth overkill, and also because every singer sounds so damn effete. In a kind of reverse-emo gesture that ends up more annoying than Dashboard Confessional’s wail, the predominant male voice in Helsinki barely rises above an affected whisper, as if he’s going to lose control of his tear ducts at any given moment.
The most egregious crime perpetrated by these Aussie bunny rabbits is also the most musically ambitious song on the album. In “The Owls Go”, we hear a whispered group countdown, bubbles popping, ba-da-da’s, hand claps, group shout-outs, an annoyingly catchy, highly meaningless chorus, and a coy little girl mouthing some impromptu spoken-word lyrics. Who knew a sensory assault could assume such an innocent guise? Sure, some of the arrangements are pretty, such as the twinkling “Imaginary Ordinary”, but most of Fingers Crossed barely registers as Postal Service-lite background muzak.
I guess my dismissal of Architecture In Helsinki is linked to my newly burgeoning masculinity, as the females I know seem to find the band sonically endearing. I find their puerile, psychologically regressive child’s play boring and self-absorbed, but maybe I just don’t understand women. Perhaps infantile self-absorption is the key to every girl’s heart. And to her mother.
Reviewed by: Akiva Gottlieb
Reviewed on: 2004-06-10