The Latebirds: Last of the Good Ol' Days

David Smith

Finnish rockers indebted to Tom Petty deliver middling results with an album that sounds like, well, Tom Petty.

The Latebirds

Last of the Good Ol' Days

Label: Second Motion
US Release date: 2011-08-30
UK Release date: 2011-09-19

Imitation is the best form of flattery, they say. True in some cases, but certainly not a rule to live by: what if, par example, the flattery in question is of a level of quality that could actually offend the subject it’s supposed to be flattering?

A perfect case in point is British punk in the 1970s. Mr. John Lydon, the man who helped spawn a million spiky-haired, gob-soaked bands in the Sex Pistols’ wake – far from being proud of the scene that subsequently sprung up – actually detested the majority of acts that made up post-punk, new wave and beyond. Even a heroin-addled punk upstart would’ve noticed flattery was conspicuous by its absence.

Now, take the Latebirds, and consider Last of the Good Ol’ Days – most of which feels like a watery, contrived facsimile of former greats: the Band and Tom Petty in particular. This is an album that tries its very hardest at almost every turn to deny its Finnish roots – the Latebirds, of course, originate from Helsinki. However, in doing so, the band layers up everything with keyboards, southern U.S. rock guitars, and the affected vocals of Markus Nordenstreng: a man who sings like he wears sunglasses indoors and takes himself far too seriously.

Whether the purpose of Last of the Good Ol’ Days is to relive the glory days of U.S. alt rock – or bring something new to this oft-visited genre is unclear; what is clear is that despite the middling results on this album, The Late Birds are certainly getting noticed by the artists that have influenced them. Strange, eh?

So, while the Latebirds are bagging enviable guest spots with Patti Smith, and, on the five-track bonus EP Woodstock Sessions that accompanies this release, they’re lent contributions by Kris Kristofferson and Levon Helm, we’ve got tired Jeff Tweedy pastiches, and rehashes of Dire Straits’ “Romeo & Juliet” in the form of the cringe-worthy "Like Father Like Son."

Grizzled delivery and endeavours to sound as authentically American as possible aside, it’s when they let go of their reference points that it all falls into place for the Latebirds: "Summer Becomes Fall," for example, is fantastic: it’s like Bruce Springsteen without the ego and the stadium pomposity, a summer radio song that a latter-day Bryan Adams would be proud of. It’s undeniably likeable – a shining, melancholy-drenched classic that, were these not such troubled times for guitar music, would be a hit-in-waiting.

Away from the unassuming pop tune or two, the lyrics of Last of the Good Ol’ Days are occasionally inspired: indeed, we’re often in protest-rock territory. “Don’t believe what they reported, truth will be distorted,” goes “Fearless”; a lament to murdered Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaja, it's a moment of genuine passion and integrity.

If you struggle to love the bulk of Last of the Good Ol’ Days, the bonus disc Woodstock Sessions will be completely superfluous. And it’s a shame the Latebirds still need to repay their musical debts three albums in. However, with the guidance, respect and support they're getting from their heroes, they may actually learn to live without them and move on.


To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

This film suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less

Award-winning folk artist Karine Polwart showcases humankind's innate link to the natural world in her spellbinding new music video.

One of the breakthrough folk artists of our time, Karine Polwart's work is often related to the innate connection that humanity has to the natural world. Her latest album, A Pocket of Wind Resistance, is largely reliant on these themes, having come about after Polwart observed the nature of a pink-footed geese migration and how it could be related to humankind's intrinsic dependency on one another.

Keep reading... Show less

Victory Is Never Assured in ‘Darkest Hour’

Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour (2017) (Photo by Jack English - © 2017 FOCUS FEATURES LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. / IMDB)

Joe Wright's sharp and only occasionally sentimental snapshot of Churchill in extremis as the Nazi juggernaut looms serves as a handy political strategy companion piece to the more abstracted combat narrative of Dunkirk.

By the time a true legend has been shellacked into history, almost the only way for art to restore some sense of its drama is to return to the moment and treat it as though the outcome were not a foregone conclusion. That's in large part how Christopher Nolan's steely modernist summer combat epic Dunkirk managed to sustain tension; that, and the unfortunate yet dependable historical illiteracy of much of the moviegoing public.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.