Elevate Difference

Like It Or Not

If the latest slate of indie bands are to be believed, feigned disinterest and irony worship are so not cool anymore. It seems as though the hipsters think they've totally moved beyond all that. This season's must-have emotional response to your surroundings? Cutesy glee, couched within a three-word (preferably multi-syllabic) band name. Problem is, it still feels like an affectation, a pose that comes off just as hollow as those other two. Therein lies my biggest issue with Australian group Architecture in Helsinki. 

They're fun and funky. They're danceable enough. They have crammed more instruments than I care to count into each song. Their videos are appropriately colorful and clever, and they seem to me about as genuine as those store-bought smiles Donny and Marie Osmond trot out whenever a camera is aimed at them. 

Pretension, another unfortunate characteristic this "musical collective" seems to have in spades, does not sit well with me. I have listened to both "versions" of the song "Like It Or Not." Back to back, over and over and over again. I put the word versions in quotes just now because I listened to the song from their 2007 release Places Like This, and also to the song billed as "Version 2" on the Like It Or Not EP released last summer. Either my ears are broken, or there is absolutely no difference between the two "versions" of this same song. This leaves me to wonder why the band would go through the effort of tacking on that "Version 2" addendum to the song on the EP. 

"One Heavy February (2008)" is an updated version of a song originally released by AiH in 2004 as the first cut on their debut album Fingers Crossed. The original track was a charming instrumental piece that went on for a little under a minute. It's a pleasant enough way to start a record, and it should have been left the hell alone. The original serves as a core around which the group has built this overblown cocoon. It clocks in at two minutes and thirty seconds, a full ninety seconds longer than the original tune. This "2008" incarnation seems like they were fooling around with a Casio keyboard one afternoon and decided to tinker with something they already had until they turned it into something new. Now it's become... filler. 

Based on his inflated vocal delivery and comfortable co-opting of "world music," I think it's safe to assume that Beirut's Zach Condon thinks Talking Heads founder David Byrne is the bee's knees. The same goes for AiH front man Cameron Bird who, along with his fellow band members, also seems to adore Talking Heads side project Tom Tom Club. Nowhere is this more apparent than on their cover of "Beef In Box," a song originally performed by British neo-prog band I.Q.  From the twittering synths and the random tweaks to the ever-so-slightly off-kilter rhythm and the repetition of "You don't stop/You don't stop/You don't stop/Till the beef's in the box," it is painfully clear that Architecture in Helsinki have made it their mission to dredge up the sounds of the early-to-mid-1980s. You know, again. Goody.

Written by: M. Brianna Stallings, February 25th 2009

I don't particularly mind cheeky cheerful pop music; I don't even mind self-awareness therein. It's just too hammy for my taste here. Thanks for your comments. I appreciate it.Brianna

you did a perfect job describing exactly what it is i dislike about this sort of music.