When Latvian rock group BrainStorm was preparing for its 2005 summer concert tour of Latvia, I was interested to see who would be the opening acts. One of the groups named caught my eye: Double Faced Eels. “Double Faced who?” I had never heard of this group, even though it was formed in 2000 and was already known in Latvia’s alternative music circles.
Smoked eel is a traditional delicacy on the Latvian Christmas dinner table. Likewise Double Faced Eels’ debut album, Zilais valis (The Blue Whale), is a Latvian music delicacy. Having listened to this album nonstop for the past few days, it’s clear to me the sound created by the band is something new and exciting. A brand of guitar-based power rock combined with solid drumming, along with some crazy lyrics, make this album a strong buy. The Eels’ music is sometimes heavy, yet at other times poppy, almost ska-like. With nearly 50 minutes of music, Zilais valis should go down well at parties and on the road in the car stereo.
The album actually has 15 tracks (if you count track No. 3 with no name, just 11 seconds of storytelling by an elderly lady speaking to a bunch of kids about kaņepu sviests, or hempseed butter).
The album starts off with the band’s big hit, “Zilais valis” (The Blue Whale). It has been nominated for best rock song of 2005 at the annual Latvian Music Awards scheduled March 10 in Rīga.
In the trail of the whale follows “100g,” a reference to the size of a shot of liquor in Latvia (100 grams is about 3.5 U.S. fluid ounces, or about a triple shot in the United States). It’s a quick ska-tempo drinking song.
The fourth track, “Cemme” (Anger), is a witty, angry power guitar Green Day-type song. Then comes a song sung in English, “To Take Breathe.” It probably should be called, “To Take My Breath Away,” as per its lyrics. The song is fairly musically mundane. The lyrics are unfortunately uncomprehensible and the pronounciation poor.
“16,” on the other hand is an uptempo modern remake of Olga Rajecka’s repetoire song, “Kad man vairs nebūs 16.” Rajecka even sings solo in the last part of the track.
“Ja esi stulbs” (If You’re Stupid) features a moving bass line and some weird chord modulations towards the end of the track, making for a good dancing song.
Next is “Krokodils” (The Crocodile). This is my favorite on the album, offering a compact rythmic barrage, with good lead vocals and harmonies, great drumming and nice counterpoint work between the guitars and bass guitar. All members of the band are in the zone on this song.
“Bikses” (Pants) is a light-hearted song with rather foolish four-line lyrics. The track includes a little kid who tries to sing one of the verses and an elderly woman who complains about her state pension.
“Sha la la” goes the chorus of the next track, just an average party song.
“Prasīt aizmirsto” (Ask for the Forgotten) has been one of the singles from the album. It’s of the few songs on the album with serious content.
Track 12, “SEX,” returns to the lighter side of things. The song starts out with acoustic guitars and vocals, then has some whistling combined with appropriate sound effects and a nice melodic chorus complete with harmonies and handclaps. The rest of the band joins in later on in the song, which fits in quite well.
“No Lies” is the other song sung in English. It’s another average heavy song with some pretty awful-sounding lyrics.
“Pa jokam” (Just for a Joke) is the current radio single. But there’s nothing funny about the song, which features power chords and a strong, rocking chorus. It’s one of the best songs on the album, without any doubt. The song ends with a bridge part that is quite unusual.
The final and longest song on the album is “LPDZ” (perhaps a reference to “The Proud Family” characters LaCienega, Penny, Dijonay and Zoey). It starts off with the now familiar ska rhythm and has verses sung in Latvian and the Livonian language. There’s an abrupt turn to heaviness about one minute into the song, almost as if a completely different song is beginning. During the final 90 seconds the track gradually speeds up, as does the guitar solo, and the band goes into a little ego trip, showing off what it can do, rounding off with a big ending.
I hear Double Faced Eels does a great live show, going all out. The members of the group are all young, between the ages of 18 and 23. They include Mārtiņš Gailītis (Marka) on guitar and lead vocals, Reinis Briģis (Reinis) on lead guitar and vocals, Eduards Zagainovs (Chikis) on bass and Pauls Ķesteris (Pauls) on drums. The band’s main musical influences are Green Day, Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park, Foo Fighters and The Beatles.
The past year proved to be somewhat of a breakthrough for Double Faced Eels. Having played on the BrainStorm concert tour and, in January, releasing its first album, Double Faced Eels is now considered one of the top bands in Latvia. There has been discussion in Latvia about the band’s lyrics being offensive to some people, but I wouldn’t try to read too much into them and just accept the lyrics for what they are. It’s just music and these guys are singing and playing about the pillars of youth: sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll.
It will be worth watching how Double Faced Eels follows up on the success its debut album.
Double Faced Eels
Platforma Records, 2006
On the Web
The band’s official Web site includes some background on the group, news of upcoming concerts, a bulletin board and other features. EN ES LV
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