Latest by Labvelīgais Tips lacks classic song

Eiropa mūs nesapratīs

One of the few things left to depend on in this world is the yearly arrival of a Labvelīgais Tips album every April 1. For the last seven years, each April Fool’s Day brings another release from this ensemble, making them probably the most prolific band in Latvia. This past April 1 came Eiropa mūs nesapratīs, a collection of 14 songs.

Labvelīgais Tips is a band that is hard to categorize. Humor is a major part of their arsenal, and many of their songs are in the schlager style (though a more "modern" interpretation of that form). Their songs are about simple topics, finding the humor in everyday occurences. The band itself is larger than your everyday rock band: besides the usual guitar, bass and drums, they add trumpet, flute and accordion, not to mention a string quartet.

I only became a fan of Tips upon the release of their "best of" collection in 1999. I had heard a few of their songs prior to that, but I suppose I wasn’t yet able to get the joke at that point, as Labvelīgais Tips have a very unique sense of humor that takes a certain mentality to appreciate. But after listening to the collection, and hearing tales of omnibuses in people’s backyards and brothers in Chicago, I was hooked. And though I didn’t get all the jokes (it seems most are geared towards people who have spent their lives in Latvia), I began to listen to them much more frequently. I also picked up their 2000 release Atkārtot!, which was another great collection of songs.

Surprisingly, I found Eiropa mūs nesapratīs a bit disappointing. Though the classic Tips "sound" was there, after listening to the album a number of times it seemed to me that something was missing: a truly classic Tips song. The "best of" collection was full of these classic songs, and Atkārtot! added a few more, but there aren’t really any songs on Eiropa that can stand alongside their earlier material. Not that the songs are bad: All the songs are solid, but there aren’t any songs that I would look forward to hearing if I were to see these guys in concert.

The songs continue to have an even more eclectic sound, with influences ranging from reggae to Latin. "Koka klucis Konstantīns" sounds like a combination of Latin and lounge music. The song "Pazudis ir miegs" also has a Latin sound, but also strikes me as that "Russian-Latin" sound that many Raimonds Pauls songs in the 1970s seemed to have.

The old Latvian standard, "Augstu laimi un prieku" (the "Lai dzīvo sveiks!" song), is redone a la Tips, this time in a Mexican mariachi style.

Many of the songs here defy description, which is part of the charm of Labvelīgais Tips, though some may be turned off by the constant changing of styles. There is always some new sound, some new surprise on each of their records. Even the lyrics defy description, as some of the songs left me scratching my head and thinking, "What was THAT about?" Songs such as "Smilšu krasas portfelīts", "Dubļi mani dubļi" and "Tu, mana ģeometriskā" either show off the creativity of the band or leave some thinking, "These guys will write a song about anything."

"Eiropa mūs nesapratīs" is a song in waltz style that tells the story of a Latvian guy and his great-great-great-great-great (and a few more greats) grandfather, both of whom have been to neither Germany nor Denmark and don’t have any Hungarian or Irish friends. This probably alludes to the fact that to truly appreciate and understand Labvelīgais Tips you have to be a Latvian living in Latvia.

The packaging of this album, though it looks nice, also is lacking in a few ways. Particularly annoying is the absence of lyrics. Having those would make a lot of their jokes easier to understand. Also, though the members of the band are listed, nowhere is it written what they do or what instruments they play.

Maybe the need to release an album every year has started to take its toll and isn’t giving them enough time to properly craft an album. Many of the songs wind up sounding a bit repetitive, often repeating verses and choruses a few more times than necessary. Perhaps the reason that Atkārtot! was such a good album was that it was two years after the last recording of new material.

Die-hard Tips fans will like this record. I don’t dislike it, but don’t think it will be making it into my CD player with any great frequency. If you don’t have any Tips recordings, this is probably not the one to start with. I’d recommend starting with the "best of" release. If you really like what you hear there, you might just like Eiropa mūs nesapratīs.


Eiropa mūs nesapratīs

Labvēlīgais Tips

MICREC,  2001

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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