Architecture in Helsinki
“Most punk bands break guitars, we break woodblocks.” This statement from Architecture in Helsinki semi-front man Cameron Bird, captures what it’s like to see the group perform. They’re like a demented high-school band that’s wandered on stage after a day of gobbling acid and watching Sesame Street.
Their trademark sound consists of deceptively child-like melodies—often sung by multiple members—married to staccato rhythms and held together by impeccable musicianship. Handclaps collide with a chorus of trumpets and the next minute those claps are overridden by a melodica.
There’s a casual tone to the show, established immediately as the eight members saunter onto the stage and take up residence behind a barrage of randomly assigned instruments. I say “random” because no member plays the same instrument throughout the entire show. One minute the barefoot guy in jeans and a t-shirt (speaking of casual) has a bass slung over his shoulder, the next he’s bouncing up and down bashing at the keyboards and singing backups.
The band pulls no punches, and after three songs we’ve already been treated to both of the band’s best songs. The crowd eats up “The Owls Go” and “It’5!” while the tunes’ early appearance have me wondering what they have left for the rest of the gig.
I should have more faith. The nature of the band’s music is such that even songs you’ve never heard before seem infectious and familiar. I can only assume that more than a few copies of Fingers Crossed and In Case We Die will shift as a result of the melodies lingering in our collective mind after the show.
The band indulges in a few well-selected covers, starting with the Bar-Kays “Soul Finger”, a song with a crazily swinging funk that suits this band. Memories of teenage years are stirred by their version of the Zit Remedy’s “Everybody Wants Something”, and it’s like the early ‘90s all over again. Degrassi Junior High is just one of those weird universals; I have yet to meet someone who lived through that era who wasn’t a fan of the show to some degree or another.
“You can’t have this wig, I bought it from Elton John,” Bird retorts to some smart-ass in the crowd who questions his ‘do. His self-deprecating humour is indicative of the band’s musical philosophy. There is a sense of fun and irony, but not so much that it detracts from the emotional pull of the tunes. Amidst the quirky instrumentation and kiddie sing-along vocals, there is a core of emotion and a genuine belief in the quality of the material. And it’s a belief that is well and truly earned.