Various Artists: The Ultimate Stupido Sampler (Before the Next One)
Helsinki's Stupido is an independent pop label with a roster of bands who perform in English and Finnish. On this sampler we get to hear 12 of them. The album is divided roughly in half along the lines of the two languages, with English taking up the first part of the disc, then Finnish following afterwards. There are differences between the two sets of songs that go beyond language. The groups that sing in English sound as if they might be inspired by the possibility of extra-Finland mainstream success. They draw on dance music, bright-hearted pop with international retro touches -- there are chords in The Hypnomen's cool "Asleep" that sound as if they've been lifted straight from The Doors. In the second half of the disc, the Finnish half, the bands turn eccentric. They skip off into ska-folk, "Finnish outlaw country", music that seems indigenous and unlikely to be aimed at foreigners who wouldn't get the joke of "rock classics turned into humppas". Both sets of bands are equally accomplished, but the Finnish ones should seem more interesting to an English-speaking audience because they are more particular to their country, less universal, less familiar. They are less easy to pigeonhole and therefore less easy to ignore. The Ultimate Stupido Sampler is a reminder of the stratagems and small betrayals that artists from countries with comparatively unknown languages might go through when they want to make names for themselves. The mood of this disc is goofy, cute, and yet when I think back on it always remember this: the English songs came first.