Latest Prāta vētra album is proof of group’s vitality and skill

Prāta vētra, internationally known as Brainstorm, have, for the past few decades, been undisputedly the most successful of Latvian popular artists. Regularly selling out stadiums and arenas in Latvia, their albums and shows continue to find a wide audience within Latvia.

In 2018, the group released their latest album – Par to zēnu, kas sit skārda bungas – and, much like the many albums before it, it was a hit, and was followed up by well-attended concerts, including a concert attended by more than 60,000 at the Rīga Mežaparks Open-air Stage. The group has achieved international success as well, particularly in Russia (the group regularly release three versions of each of their albums – in Latvian, English and Russian).

The group formed in 1989, and released their first single in 1992. The group members include Renārs Kaupers on vocals, Jānis Jubalts on guitars, Kaspars Roga on drums, and keyboardist Māris Mihelsons. As on their previous albums, the bass guitar is performed by Ingars Viļums.

The album begins with the appropriately percussion heavy, even frantic title track. Partially inspired by the Günter Grass novel ‘The Tin Drum’ (and not the first Prāta vētra song to find inspiration there – the English language song ‘Tin Drums’ off their Četri krasti album was also similarly inspired), the song, with its energetic beginning and almost manic energy, sets the stage for the songs to follow, indicating that the group have no intention of slowing down after their career, which spans many decades.

Being, by far the most successful Latvian recording artists of the past few decades, Prāta vētra are able to bring in top international talent to oversee their recordings, and on this album, the producer is Povel Olsson from Sweden. The polish on this record is notable, though at times perhaps a bit overly slick, for example on the song ‘Ogles’, where the extensive and expansive synthesizer sounds and arrangements might remind some listeners of the equally synth-heavy songs of the earlier album Kaķēns, kas atteicās no jūrasskolas. Even so, the song, with its catchy melody, is one of the highlights of the album.

Over their many albums, Prāta vētra have experimented with many different musical styles and sounds, often times with success, but the funk elements on the song ‘Šokolādes saldējums’ sound a bit out of place with the rest of the songs on the album. Lyrics like ‘šokolādes saldējums – kā glazūra sirds lūzt’ (chocolate ice cream – my heart breaks like frosting) may make some listeners cringe as well.

The record concludes with what might be the group’s most unabashedly patriotic song, ‘Pirmais latvietis uz mēness’, a song that references the swell of emotion on seeing the Latvian flag after being away for a while, as well the singing of ‘Saule. Pērkons. Daugava.’, which is always one of the culmination points of any Latvian Song Celebration concert. The song foretells a time when a grandfather and grandson watch together as the first Latvian lands on the moon. The song, at once patriotic and inspiring, is an aptly fitting ending for this collection of songs.

Now in their third decade of recording and performing, Prāta vētra show as much vitality and songwriting skill on Par to zēnu, kas sit skārda bungas as they did on their earlier efforts. Still regularly filling stadiums in Latvia, the group’s words and music still affect listeners both young and old. Prāta vētra prove again that they are without peer or parallel in Latvian popular music. Certainly, some listeners will long for the quirkier, more off-beat songs of their early career, as Prāta vētra have journeyed a long way from their rougher, less polished beginnings, but Par to zēnu holds its own against their earlier albums, and is a worthy entry in their already rich discography.

For further information, please visit the Prāta vētra website.

Par to zēnu, kas sit skārda bungas

Prāta vētra

BRCD239, 2018

Track listing

1. Par to zēnu, kas sit skārda bungas

2. Ogles

3. Pašu dārgāko

4. Tevis dēļ

5. Kas būs – būs

6. Šokolādes saldējums

7. Paralēles

8. Как Я искал тебя

9. Draugam

10. Bezgalīgs stāsts

11. Pirmais latvietis uz mēness

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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