Features Music

Bitch Alert

{mosimage}I really had to ask. What was the name again? Talking music over coffee on a grumpy
afternoon of the apologetic Finnish spring, the name was dropped like a coin on
the kitchen tile. Silence crept in. I show you – came the answer. Somebody
slipped the CD into the player, and on came sweeping, towering waves of sound,
and riding them the raspy, angry, vivid voice of a girl, irresistibly
commanding everybody's attention. "I wanna see your skeleton," she
snarled, "and I can feel your bones!" This is how I first met Bitch Alert.

he second meeting is slightly less spiritual
and certainly not so loud, but much more relaxed and, compared to what I'd
expected, reassuringly real. On the other end of the telephone line is Heinie
, lead singer and songwriter for the band.

"I'm sorry about my English, it must be
fuckin' rusty by now," she rushes to say, confirming two stereotypes at
once: the one about Finns apologising for their impeccable English, and the one
about the flippant attitude of rock musicians. Suddenly the choice of the band
name doesn't sound so strange anymore.

"In fact, originally we were called
simply Bitch, but when we signed to Poko Records, the label made us
change the name for copyright reasons. An '80s hard rock band was called the
same," Heinie explains. Reasonable, one could say, but, then, why
"Bitch" in the first place?

"At the time we thought that was just the
coolest name ever. That was the only reason. Sure, it's not a name your grandma
would like, but… luckily, at least my grandma doesn't speak English. And
after all, we were 15 or 16 at the time the band was founded. But we never
regretted the choice."

The "we" refers to the original
line-up of Bitch Alert (née Bitch), that is Heinie on guitars and
vocals, and friends Maria and Maritta, playing, respectively, the
bass and the drums. The trio got together in 1997. However, Maria soon chose to
leave the band, and it is with new bass player Kimmo that the band
finally got signed in 2000. (Just to avoid confusion, for those who are not
familiar with Finnish first names: yes, Kimmo is a guy.) Following the debut LP Pay for orgasm, the band has since then released four
albums, the latest of which is last year's I can feel your bones.

{mosimage}Riot grrrls

"We're not decidedly feminists,"
Heinie says, when I ask about the lyrics and the attitude. "We don't write
songs under a manifesto, and we don't consider ourselves political in any way.
On the other hand, most of our songs are very personal, and the person whose
view they are written from happens to be a young woman, so in this sense, you
can still say we are feminists. But I think the music is more important than
the lyrics anyway. Ideally, each of our songs would only have one line, one
sentence as lyrics."

The title of Bitch Alert's second album
(…rriot!) suggests a link to the riot grrrll movement –
the loose spiritual attitude at the meeting point of punk and feminism, started
almost two decades ago by bands like Bikini Kill and Bratmobile
–, and Heinie confirms.

"Bitch Alert is about girls – and of
course, boys – being themselves, having fun and being free to do whatever they
want, no matter how they are expected or told to behave by others," she
sums up.

2002's ...rriot! was
released in the UK too. Although it received some unexpected and positive
critical attention (notably from the Kerrang! magazine), and the 28-stop
promotional UK tour was considered a success, it didn't bring international
breakthrough for the band. Subsequent records haven't been released outside
Finland, either.

"We'd love to tour England again. Or the
US, or other countries of Europe. Being on tour is what we love the most. But I
just hate the business side of it; going on tour abroad is so expensive!"

And tight budgets are indeed quite a concern
for the band, whose three members all have day jobs to support their passion.

"Unless you're HIM or Rasmus,
or a similarly big act, in Finland you can't make a living solely with
music," Heinie comments.

Incidentally, this might have just changed. Just
as this issue of FREE! Magazine hits the streets, Bitch Alert are on
their way back from Los Angeles, after playing a showcase to "drunken
record company executives" at the Musexpo 2007 event, and with any bit of
luck, this has been an important step in going to "the next level,"
whatever that might turn out to be.

What is sure, on the other hand, that 10 years
on, the once-teen-band of Bitch Alert is as alive and kicking as it can be.

"Our last record was probably the
darkest, heaviest one so far, full of desperation. But if you listen close, you
can feel there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and there is always a
sparkle in the eyes. It's like the band. Although we got a bit bored with
touring Finland over and over again, we're still having a whole lot of fun
playing," she affirms.

This, in practice, means a couple of more
months of gathering inspiration, and a new tour in the autumn. And until then?

"I don't know, I've never been too good
at wise concluding remarks. Just have a nice fuckin' spring time!"

The music
Comparing Bitch Alert to '90s grunge-rock
sweethearts Hole is inevitable, and admittedly, the comparison describes
aptly the mix of fuzzy rock, grunge, pop and punk that is Bitch Alert. In fact,
there is little in there that you haven't heard before, if you're a fan of
Courtney Love, Nirvana, the Smashing Pumpkins or, even, Muse.
And still, as is often the case, the end result sounds fresh and invigorating,
partly because of the catchy riffs and grooves, and, perhaps more importantly,
because of the rich and powerful vocals, frail and whispering in one second and
breaking into uninhibited shouting in the next instant. (Heinie's singing could
remind you of PJ Harvey as well as Juliette Lewis, and sometimes
even the monotonous, aggressive snarl of Liam Gallagher.) Bitch Alert,
then, is not the band if you're looking for sophisticated subtlety or craftily
used samples, it's merely catchy and truthful – like emo would be, without the
"If you never heard of Bitch Alert
before, and want to take the easy way, listen to the …rriot! album,"
recommends Heinie. "If you want to listen to our punk side, you should go
for Songs for your wedding EP. If you're more into indie rock, Kill
your darlings
would suit you best."

And if you'd like to know where Bitch Alert
could go next, give a listen to I can feel your bones. Or just visit the
band's myspace-site (,
and decide for yourself if all their albums are merely a waste of plastic.
After all, independent choice is exactly what they are all about.

They sound like: Courtney Love finally got inspired!

Essential listening: The album I Can Feel Your Bones

The latest: spring break and showcase set in LA. Expect a return to stage in the autumn.

Albums Music

Low: Drums and Guns

That I mention Jack and Meg White's
influential duo here is not by accident. Certainly, most of the  slow, gentle and angst-ridden songs of Low
doesn't sound anything even remotely close to the sped-up,
electronica-and-distortion-washed rock of the 'Stripes (although even a direct
comparison of the music wouldn't be totally off base in songs such as “Cold,
cold night
”). But I find something in these two bands' attitude that is
essentially the same. It is the achievement of a monumental sound with
minimalist orchestration.

Minimalism in this case is not merely an
eloquent way of saying simplicity: with the combination of a handful of weird
noise samples, a soft drum pattern, an apologetic bassline and heart-breakingly
painful vocals, Low creates a rich, massive and at the same time fragile flow
of sounds, the slowness of which accentuates the importance of the small

“Drums and Guns,” the eighth album of the band is probably not the record you want to
listen to before a night out. It is not easy listening – merely by its
slowness, it demands your full attention –, but you might just find yourself
captivated by its depth.

Albums Music

Natasha Bedingfield: N.B.

The best attempts on her second album, N.B.,
come close: “I wanna have your babies” is a similarly joy- and tuneful
confession of feelings, and the opening track “How do you do” also
impresses (evoking Gwen Stefani without being, alas, terribly annoying).

But the rest of the album fails to create
anything memorable. Natasha's voice is simply wasted in the uninspired
presentation of meant-to-be-r'n'b songs that sound, mostly, like a corporate
marketing plan to appeal to the American market. The whole record is coated in
the sugary icing of “smooth” drum loops and “slick” bass lines, so the result
is a radio-friendly, danceable r'n'b record, which is, by the way, utterly
boring. If not for this generic, over-produced presentation, songs like “Say
it again
” (evoking none other than the Red Hot Chili Peppers) or the
haunting “Tricky Angel” could have been great.

But as it seems, you're better off
downloading “I wanna have your babies” and “How do you do,” and hope that she
will do an acoustic performance sometime, where her voice could truly shine. That
would be amazing.

Albums Music

Gruff Rhys: Candylion

Main roles are cast to the acostic
guitars, Beatles-esque drums and Rhys' distinctively nasal and always low-key
vocals, but the essence of Candylion lies in the details, the carefully
placed samples of backward guitars, strings, harmonica riffs and weird, mellow
noises. Expect a few surprises too: 
"Lonesome Words" sounds like a melancholic tribute to
spaghetti western, the hymnical folk of "Con Carino" is
followed by Welsh-language "Gyrru gyrru gyrru," a dynamic
piece of driving soundtrack, while the title track is merely a sweet and simple
example of great songwriting. The 14-minute closing track "Skylon!"
is also worth a mention on its own: a tale of a plane hijacking, full of quiet
anxiety, that hints to what a collaboration between Thom Yorke and Bob
would sound like.

Come to think of it, it's a bit of a
mystery how all these elements can work together. But for certain they do. And
if the result is not exactly revolutionary in any way, it is tasty indeed.

Albums Music

Arctic Monkeys – Favourite Worst Nightmare

The prasising reviews and the soaring sales
are hardly a surprise, and the Monkeys were indeed aware of the positive
prejudice that was to welcome their next move. „We knew that whatever we do on
the second album, it will get played on the radio, so we thought we might as
well do something interesting this time,” said singer-songwriter Alex Turner
in an interview.

It is then a bit of a surprise that „Favourite
Worst Nightmare
” does not take on radically new ways; in fact, it delivers
pretty much the same of the energetic, crafty, somewhat barren and
quintessentially British rock music that was introduced on its predecessor. The
guitar and the vocals are as much a rhythm instrument here as the drums (having
said that, drummer Matt Helders' performance is jaw-droppingly amazing
throughout the album), and songs are as far from being theatrical as possible.

The slight changes in orchestration may point to new
directions for the band – if they stick to this work ethic, we'll hear it in
one year –, but if there is a major difference between their first two LPs, it
is in the general mood: this time, everything is darker, and the dominant
sentiment is no longer that of irony, it is plain anger.

And the Arctic Monkeys is still one of the best bands
around these days.

Albums Music

The 69 Eyes – Angels

Which is ironic,
because it is not the biker-gang outfits, tattoos, the black nail polish and
make-up, and the 80s B-movie vampire paraphernalia that will make you remember
this band. It is not the slightly pretentious lyrics about angels, devils and
the "world of rock'n'roll" that's in between them.  It is not even the music, that for the most
part wouldn't sound out of place on the stage of a dusty roadside bar in the
middle of Arizona. It's the vocals of frontman Jyrki 69 – the vocals
that evoke none other than Elvis Presley.

The combination
might sound weird at first. But in practice it works perfectly, as the
grandiose, Elvis-style singing brings just the right theatrical element to the
picture, and makes the goth-touched-rock of the band sound genuine – in every
possible sense of the word. It is energetic, captivating and self-assured, and
even touching (without being cheesy), where need be.

released in the first week of March, is The 69
Eyes' ninth studio album. It features classical-heavy metal band Apocalyptica,
and, in general, eleven songs that would make Axl Rose green with envy
(expect further delay of Chinese Democracy).

Ladies and
gentlemen, the King has left the building. But he'll be back soon, with a crate
of beer and spirits.

Features Music

The seed is fertilized

{mosimage}Toni and Antti, in a telltale
sign of the band's do-it-yourself attitude, convinced Sipe to join them on
drums. It didn't exactly matter that Sipe had never actually played the drums
before. On the contrary, it fitted perfectly into the genuine punk attitude of
the lads. As did the name Apulanta – meaning "fertilizer."

The story goes that Toni came
up with the name while lounging on his then-girlfriends' sofa, and that other
possible name candidates included Napalm Killers, Silmaläsikäärme
("spectacled cobra") and Pökäle (roughly translated as "sturdy
piece of crap") – Apulanta was to be different, gritty, and as
down-to-earth as possible.

At and around the first few
gigs, the band auditioned numerous bass players, but the right one came along
only in the autumn of '92, when Sipe met Amanda (Mandy) Gaynor, an exchange
student from the US. Again, the fact that Mandy had never played the bass
before was no problem: what really mattered was her fondness of punk bands,
such as The Misfits, The Ramones and Bad Religion. The band was soon playing
gigs, not only in Heinola, but all over Southern Finland. Time was ripe for a
record deal.

In the fall of '93, Mandy
returned to the US. Her replacement was the band's longtime friend Tuukka
Temonen. Keeping with the tradition, he didn't have any previous experience of
playing the bass, but he caught up quickly. Tuukka was also interested in
movies and videos, and became the first video director for Apulanta.

In 1994, Apulanta supported
Californian punk band The Offspring, but the grandiosity of the events failed
to impress Antti. He would have pursued a heavier, more gothic, darker sound,
instead of the catchier, punkier tunes that were the traits of Toni's
songwriting. In the fall of the same year, Antti decided to quit the band.


…and they became famous

Initially it seemed that his
departure led to a lowpoint in the band's career, but in fact it merely marked
a new beginning. The band decided not to look for a replacement guitarist but
continue as a trio, and they recorded their first LP (Attack of the A.L. people) in the winter of 1994. The EP that
followed in 1995, under the name Hajonnut,
contained the song that would become their biggest hit to date: Mitä kuuluu ("What's up"). The
rest is Finnish punk rock history…