A promotional photo of the band Higinsoni shows two masked Santas, one military man and a wig-wearing “I ‘heart’ NY” T-shirt-sporting mystery man. Whatever first impressions this may suggest, it turns out the band’s debut compact disc Uzmet garu! is just another modern take on traditional Latvian folk songs. It actually doesn’t get more normal than this.
Higinsoni (Zoltāns, E Minor, Blokis and Tēvocis) are a self-proclaimed four-man ethno-punk-metal band from Latvia—or Sweden. The album insert (as well as Web site) says Higinsoni, the grandsons of Latvian emigrants, arrived in Rīga toward the end of 2005 and, after a few month’s hardships and a side job of stealing light bulbs only to resell them at the market, wound up in the music business. One can guess the information is largely fictional—the band’s Web site updates happenings and events that seem too outlandish to be true—but the “information” is entertaining enough. Unfortunately, their music doesn’t match the animation of their write-up.
The album started out well enough, with a peppy ska-goes-death-metal rendition of “Mīlu mazo Lulu.” This song will doubtless bring up memories for people other than myself, as “Lulu” was a song often sung at the weekly Gaŗezers vasaras vidusskola campfires in Michigan. The opening is played by an accordion, which sets up that intimate campfire feel. Then the ska-punk beats kick in, followed by some heavy metal guitar and screaming, gravely vocals. For a first track it’s not spectacular, but so far it had my attention, which is what counts.
The album’s second track, “Kur gaismiņa,” flat out did not impress me. Unlike “Mīlu mazo Lulu,” this is a traditional folk song. However, the track was a disappointment. It sounds like the band is trying too hard to achieve…whatever it is the band is trying to achieve.
That being said, the beginning of the third track, “Div’ dūjiņas,” made me very nervous. It’s happened before. Bands will lull you into a false sense of “this CD is good, we promise!” with track one, and then it’s all the same the rest of the way through. “Div’ dūjiņas” redeems itself quickly and becomes a less depressing version of the popular folk song. The track is overall well executed and the instrumental break is even catchy.
Track four keeps up appearances with “Līgo.” A bit of a tribal-sounding intro and nicely harmonized vocals balance out the heavy metal break in the middle of the song. “Līgo” shows Higinsoni at its highest point in the album. The song is not only the best track on the album, but it is the most originally done out of all of the covers. It even has a hint of Korn toward the end, accompanied by a very James Bondesque bass guitar line.
From this track on most of the songs are a monotony of synthesizer, heavy guitar and vocals. It’s one of those albums that starts to drone on after a while. The attention span of a person can last only so long, and once the rhythm and sound patterns are exhausted, it’s over.
Two more tracks should be noted: “Tur es biju tur man tika” and “Mērkaķītis.”
“Tur es biju tur man tika” is worth mentioning because it strikes me as one of those songs that are heard anywhere Latvians and beer can be found. The track starts off calmly and sweetly enough, then rails into the good old “Šur tur, it nekur, krodziņā zem galda!” Another point of interest in the song is toward the end, where a musical break closely resembling George Michael’s “Faith” is heard. If anything else, Higinsoni isn’t oblivious to catching the attention of listeners familiar with classic riffs.
“Mērkaķītis” is another one of those songs sung at Latvian children’s camps. What surprised me is that Higinsoni decided to go with the “clean” version of the song:
Manu mazo mērkaķīti, ū-ū-ū,
nepaliec par vientulīti, tu tu tu,
noglaudīšu tavu galvu
sasukāšu tavu spalvu
došu tevīm mazu bučiņu.
If you don’t know the “unclean” version, then you probably didn’t go to a Latvian kids camp.
I can think of a handful of my friends who would get a kick out of this album for a party scene, but I don’t think that it would make a reoccurring appearance. It doesn’t offer anything that permanently catches one’s attention, that stays on the mind days or even hours after listening to it. I would hope that if the band puts out another album, Higinsoni will explore its abilities and try to shake things up a bit more. The band comes across as a highly creative group of guys, and it would be nice to see that creativity applied to the music.
Higinsoni, a band said to be made up of the grandsons of Latvian emigrants to Sweden, plays in an ethno-punk-metal style on its debut album. (Promotional photo)
Where to buy
Purchase Uzmet garu! from BalticShop.
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