Rubik: Dada Bandits

Dada Bandits rolls up the last five years or so of indie rock into one tight little album.


Dada Bandits

Contributors: Artturi Taira, Sampsa Väätäinen, Samuli Pöyhönen, Jussi Hietala
Label: Fullsteam
Finland Release Date: 2009-05-08
UK Release Date: Import
US Release Date: 2009-09-14
Artist Website

As Dada Bandits begins, you hear "Goji Berries", and you think you're hearing Animal Collective. In particular, the screamy bits that punctuate every two lines of the first movement sound almost exactly like those little screamy things that happen in Animal Collective's "Grass". Then, "Radiants" begins, all soaring strings, drum fills, horns, and epic aspirations, and you think you're hearing the Arcade Fire. By the time "No Escape" begins with its own repeated synth-guitar motif and you half expect Carl Newman and Neko Case to break in with a duet of their own, you start wondering whether you're hearing a new album by an all-but-unknown Finnish band or a compilation detailing the recent history of indie rock. And yet, it's brilliant, album-of-the-year type material, for one reason: the joy.

Perhaps for the same reasons that so many moments on Dada Bandits sound like they could have been created by other bands, the men of Rubik seem to have not just a clear idea of the ideals they wish to espouse in the music they create, but they a true love for the bands who embodied those ideals in the days before a single note of their new album was played. As such, there's a joy here that can only come from a true love of what they are creating, an intensity that only results from the drive to be great.

Despite the disparate influences, and despite the lack of any particular running theme, Dada Bandits does feature a few recurring themes that contribute to the sense of an actual album, rather than a mere collection of songs. For one, every song but one is in a major key, which likely contributes to the sense of joy throughout the album. Fast songs, slow songs: it doesn't matter, they're all done in major keys. That makes Dada Bandits utterly impossible to listen to if you're trying to wallow in a bad mood. At times it's like hearing a photo-negative of the Arcade Fire, a band who never met a minor key they didn't like. All of the tremendous instrumentation is here, and the epic, movie-musical feel, but it's all just so...happy.

Aside from the general sense of joy and the oh-so-big sound offered by the instrumentation, there's also the matter of Artturi Taira's vocal style. Above all of these loud, bombastic instruments is that voice, in a constant state of whisper, occasionally supplemented with a bit of crooning. Taira never puts himself out front like the rock star and never commands attention over the rest of the band. He's the rare songwriter who is content to be a part of the ensemble, even as he is singing about things he certainly cares about.

Talking about the unity that so much of the album carries takes away from the true treasure of Dada Bandits: the little moments. The best are worth bullet-points:

- A lovely aside in the largely abrasive "Goji Berries" that immediately evokes Freddy Mercury

- The last 20 seconds of "Karhu Junassa", which takes off in a wave of soaring vocals and spacebound synths

- The monotone vocal section toward the end of "Richard Branson's Crash Landing", which carries on like a pedal-tone amongst all manner of keyboards, clarinet, and guitars

- The stop-start bridge of "Fire Age" that happens immediately after the first chorus

...and so on. Listen to the album twice and you're likely to find two entirely distinct sets of moments, products of the sheer number of layers and sounds they put on top of each other at any given moment.

Then there's the gorgeous "Indiana", the one song to deviate from the pattern of major-key songs. It separates itself from the rest as the sort of universally identifiable song that anyone could apply just about any tragic occurrence to. The refrain "Indiana screams" could refer to the state or to a person. The song could be about September 11th, or it could be about the personal impact of the death of a loved one, or anything in between. What's obvious is that this isn't a sad, self-serving song about a girl. Rather, it's about something bigger than that, the sort of experience that changes a person, a group, a state, a nation. That it's done in the only minor key of the album in a hushed tone that belies the mood of the other 12 songs, though the urgent need to escape takes the song into more chaotic places, only heightens its impact.

One would be hard-pressed to say that Dada Bandits is an important album. It doesn't sound as though it's the start of anything. Imagining Rubik as the leaders of some sort of movement is almost impossible. Still, to listen to Dada Bandits is to hope these Finnish lads get their moments in the sun. To listen to Dada Bandits is to hear as good a summation of modern indie rock as you're likely to hear, with the added bonus of a unified album-listening experience. To listen to Dada Bandits is to hear utter joy in musical form, and damn if that shouldn't count for something.





How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.


From Horrifying Comedy to Darkly Funny Horror: Bob Clark Films

What if I told you that the director of one of the most heartwarming and beloved Christmas movies of all time is the same director as probably the most terrifying and disturbing yuletide horror films of all time?


The 50 Best Songs of 2007

Journey back 13 years to a stellar year for Rihanna, M.I.A., Arcade Fire, and Kanye West. From hip-hop to indie rock and everywhere in between, PopMatters picks the best 50 songs of 2007.


'Modern' Is the Pinnacle of Post-Comeback Buzzcocks' Records

Presented as part of the new Buzzcocks' box-set, Sell You Everything, Modern showed a band that wasn't interested in just repeating itself or playing to nostalgia.


​Nearly 50 and Nearly Unplugged: 'ChangesNowBowie' Is a Glimpse Into a Brilliant Mind

Nine tracks, recorded by the BBC in 1996 show David Bowie in a relaxed and playful mood. ChangesNowBowie is a glimpse into a brilliant mind.


Reaching for the Sky: An Interview with Singer-Songwriter Bruce Sudano

How did Bruce Sudano become a superhero? PopMatters has the answer as Sudano celebrates the release of Spirals and reflects on his career from Brooklyn Dreams to Broadway.


Inventions Conjure Mystery and Hope with the Intensely Creative 'Continuous Portrait'

Instrumental duo Matthew Robert Cooper (Eluvium) and Mark T. Smith (Explosions in the Sky) release their first album in five years as Inventions. Continuous Portrait is both sonically thrilling and oddly soothing.


Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch Are 'Live at the Village Vanguard' to Raise Money for Musicians

Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch release a live recording from a 2018 show to raise money for a good cause: other jazz musicians.


Lady Gaga's 'Chromatica' Hides Its True Intentions Behind Dancefloor Exuberance

Lady Gaga's Chromatica is the most lively and consistent record she's made since Born This Way, embracing everything great about her dance-pop early days and giving it a fresh twist.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Street Art As Sprayed Solidarity: Global Corona Graffiti

COVID-19-related street art functions as a vehicle for political critique and social engagement. It offers a form of global solidarity in a time of crisis.


Gretchen Peters Honors Mickey Newbury With "The Sailor" and New Album (premiere + interview)

Gretchen Peters' latest album, The Night You Wrote That Song: The Songs of Mickey Newbury, celebrates one of American songwriting's most underappreciated artists. Hear Peters' new single "The Sailor" as she talks about her latest project.


Okkyung Lee Goes From Classical to Noise on the Stellar 'Yeo-Neun'

Cellist Okkyung Lee walks a fine line between classical and noise on the splendid, minimalist excursion Yeo-Neun.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.