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The finest abnormality

{mosimage}With more
than 1,5 million albums sold, Eppu Normaali is one of Finland’s rock
institutions. It is already 30 years since the band, formed by the brothers Syrjä,
took the name of one of the characters in Mel BrooksYoung Frankenstein: Abby
Normal, translated into Finnish as Eppu Normaali (epänormaali, abnormal). Last
Friday, Eppu Normaali played at the Hartwall Areena in Helsinki and they
presented their new album.

Like it
happens with many other Finnish brothers, Eppu Normaali is a band of brothers.
Two brothers and cousin. Martti Syrjä (vocals), Pantse Syrjä (guitar) and their
cousin Aku Syrjä (drums), along with guitarist Juha Torvinen and bassist Mikko
formed the group in 1976 in Ylöjärvi, very near Tampere. They started
playing a basic punk rock, following the trend of that time marked by Ramones.
But they did it in Finnish!

The first
performance of the band was in 1977 as part of a national rock competition held
in Tampere. Progressive rock was still very popular and Finland was not ready
for Martti’s sarcastic lyrics. Martti’s writing has always been outstanding and
has become one of the most reputed Finnish lyricists, a skill inherited from
his parents, writers Kirsi Kunnas and Jarkko Syrjä.

Of course,
Eppu Normaali didn’t win that competition, but they gained the attention of one
of the judges. Rock legend Juice Leskinen recognized the band’s talent. Soon
after that, the legendary Poko Records signed Eppu Normaali. Their first album,
Aknepop, was released in 1978. It wasn’t a great success and at the time only
2,000 copies were sold.

Since then,
the group has released 14 studio albums and 2 live ones and the records sales
have obviously increased much. As a matter of fact, Eppu Normaali must be one
of best selling Finnish bands. A greatest hits collection sold over 200,000
copies in 1996. A great number indeed for a small country.

{mosimage}In spite of
releasing a new album every year, the band’s breakthrough didn’t happened until
1984 with the release of Rupisia riimejä,
karmeita tarinoita
, that includes hits like
reppuni jupiset, riimisi rupiset
, Taivaassa
perseet tervataan
ja Pimeyden tango. Mikko Nevalainen had replaced Mikko Saarela on bass in 1979 and the
band was getting close to more eighties sounds and AOR, almost like Finland’s
Dire Straits.

Rock fans
will soon recognize the inspiration of some of the Eppu Normaali’s album cover.
Their second album is a tribute to The Who and their Maximum R&B, in this
case translated to Maximum Jee & Jee. Even funnier are the adaptations of
the Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Cosmo’s Factory and Willie and The Poor Boys.
For the Finns, they were Akun tehdas (Aku’s Factory, 1980) and Aku ja köyhät
(Aku and the Poor Boys, 1983).

{mosimage}A second line
up change happened in 1989. Mikko Nevalainen left the band and Sami Ruusukallio
took the bass and still holds it. However, it wasn’t the happiest times. The
band toured less and less each year and lack of inspiration was present in the
recordings while Martti Syrjä suffered problems with alcohol. It seemed the end
of Eppu Normaali when the band decided to take a break in 1994. That break
lasted 11 years.

In 2004, the
group reunited and recorded Sadan vuoden päästäkin. It was a great success,
achieving platinum on its release. It didn’t take that long to have new album
out. Last September Syvään päähän was released and again, the album has sold
great. It is a good album, a collection of rock tunes with intelligent lyrics.
This time the artwork was done by the duck artist Kaj Stenwall and the trivia
says that Juha Torvinen played a couple of songs with a one of Ron Wood’s picks
and Aku Syrjä played with one of Charlie Watts’ drumsticks.

years have gone already, but it is not too late to discover, live or on record,
one of Finland’s finest bands. Don’t let the Finnish lyrics scare you!

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