A trip to the Naukšēnu disko is worth it

For those whose Latvian geography doesn’t go beyond the very basics, Naukšēni is a small town not far from Valmiera in the north of Latvia in Vidzeme. So why did Labvēlīgais Tips title its latest album Naukšēnu disko?

Your guess is as good as mine. The only thing I know about Naukšēni is that they make flaxseed oil there. Perhaps it is simply to say that there are people who like to have a good time in every Latvian town, no matter how large or how small. Labvēlīgais tips perform songs about the most varied kinds of topics, searching for humor in the most unlikely places. The group’s style is also hard to categorize, showing many different kinds of musical influences in its songs.

The group released albums on a yearly basis at the start of its career—beginning in 1995 with Alūminija cūka—but has slowed down in recent years. About two and a half years have passed since the group released its last album, Mūzika iereibušiem cilvēkiem. This allows the group to spend more time on crafting an album, and this shows on Naukšēnu disko. I believe this to be one of the group’s best albums, containing many new hits for the group.

Naukšēnu disko was only released April 1, but many of the songs on the album were already recorded and played on the radio and in concerts. Perhaps one of the biggest hits is “Pīrādziņ’ nāc ārā!,” which could be heard just about everywhere in the summer of 2005. Kids on the tram would be singing the chorus, “Pīrādziņ’ nāc āra, bumbu spēlēt, kvasu padzerties!” Though there are multiple interpretations of the meaning of the song (and looking too deeply into any Labvēlīgais Tips song is probably a waste of time), pīrādziņ’ in this case refers to a person, perhaps a bit pudgy, who is being exhorted by his friends to get out of the house and away from an overbearing mother (first verse) and an overbearing wife (second verse). The song also begins with a death metal like chord progression and screaming, but then segues into a more traditional Labvēlīgais Tips sound.

Another hit prior to the release of the record is “Mazās kalnu ielas samurajs,” a song about a samurai who lives on Mazā kalnu street in Rīga. What a samurai is doing in Rīga is not made clear, and what the samurai is doing in one of the more depressed areas of Rīga is also unclear, but again, don’t look too deeply into the group’s lyrics, because it would spoil the fun. This song, unsurprisingly considering its subject matter, features a Japanese sound to it.

There is also “Laptops,” an ode to people who see a laptop as merely a fashion accessory, as well as those who carry around a laptop everywhere they go in the thought that it makes them look important.

In a very unusual departure for the group, it also has a pseudo-opera song called “Trio no operas ‘Cosi vandas tante’” in which three of the groups members (Normunds Jakušonoks, Andris Ābelīte and Kaspars Tīmanis), collectively know as the “Trīs bemoli” (Three Flats), sing an “opera’ trio bemoaning the difficulties in life when one has a dark-haired bride. Though the guys are clearing hamming it up, they are still excellent singers. If a listener didn’t understand Latvian, they wouldn’t realize that this is supposed to be in jest!

Chock full of new hits, Naukšēnu disko is a triumphant addition to the Labvēligais Tips catalogue. Even in the second decade, the group hasn’t lost its step yet. A more refined sound and craftmanship, not to mention great songs, ensure that this compact will often return to my CD player. A trip to the Naukšēnu disko will be a memorable one.


Naukšēnu disko

Labvēlīgais Tips

MICREC,  2006

MRCD 310

Egils Kaljo is an American-born Latvian from the New York area . Kaljo began listening to Latvian music as soon as he was able to put a record on a record player, and still has old Bellacord 78 rpm records lying around somewhere.

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