What to say about a group that doesn’t seem to have said too much about itself? Or about a group that doesn’t seem to say too much in general? Tumors’ first album, Ideoti, runs just over 35 minutes and with it the band has made a short—but not necessarily sweet—addictive addition to the Latvian music world.
Tumors can be given many genre labels, such as “pseudo-punk rock” and “post-punk revival.” But the members of Tumors have made a point to say that they themselves have not set those labels. They’ve also said that the band’s name doesn’t mean they endorse tumors or cancer (which is a strange point to make, however valid it may be), the quick explanation being that just as there are many kinds of tumors, so exist many different sides and facets to the group.
Tumors members Pēteris Riekstiņš (vocals, guitar), Valters Suķis (guitar), Jānis Riekstiņš (bass, back-up vocals) and Oskars Kaņeps-Kalniņš (drums, back-up vocals) started unofficially playing together in spring of 2003. Since then the band has played in many music festivals and received good reviews and a hefty fan base.
Tumors reminds me of the U.K. band Art Brut (an observation also made by a reviewer for delfi.lv). While Art Brut has more of a pop sound to it, Tumors is essentially similar. Both bands predominantly use non-singing vocals with more of a “speak-singing” vocal format. Both bands also seem to stick to topics that may be only fleeting thoughts in anyone else’s mind.
Other than that, Tumors has been compared to other Latvian groups that fall into the category of “not to be taken seriously.” At first listen Tumors really does sound like a ridiculous group. However, if you pay attention to the lyrics, you find that the band touches on several social issues and aspects. Some of the issues are culturally specific (like the name day invitation in “Bē da”), while others are universal (“Neviens”). The lyrics are incredibly normal, yet very well put together, with easy-going music as a nice addition.
The first track, “Bē da,” starts out as a general song about how the world is full of troubles, how people are plagued by troubles (bird flu, natural disasters), and how people are the ultimate plague. Then it becomes more of a cultural issue about name days. The narrator explains how he ran into an acquaintance, who then invites him to her name day party. As a societal norm, people aren’t invited to name days, they just show up unannounced to celebrate, so as a result, the narrator’s entire day is ruined because now this person has broken the norm and expects him to show up.
The second track, “Tieši tieši,” might be my favorite song. It’s basically a song about birthday wishes, and how even though everyone wishes you the best of luck on your birthday, each person dictates whether or not he or she is lucky in life. I can’t say exactly why I like it. Maybe it’s the extreme simplicity of lines like “Eju pie Līgas uz dzimšanas dienu, bruņojies tikai ar teikumu vienu: Daudz laimes, LĪga!” (I am going to Liga’s on her birthday, armed with just one phrase: Happy birthday, Līga!).
The third track on the album, “Nauda,” may be better known as Barret Strong’s 1959 hit, “Money (That’s What I Want).” Or it may be better known as the same song covered by any number of artists. It’s just that no one’s done it in Latvian before. Even though the track is a tweaked cover, it goes along well with the overall theme of “social issues/this is reality, folks” the album seems to have.
The next two tracks, “Puisis ar pistoli” and “Kārtības sargi” take a look at a darker side of society. I welcome corrections if I’m wrong, but “Puisis ar pistoli” seems to be a kind of morbid point-of-view song about a boy who, after finding bullets for his gun, goes into town and shoots at people, not understanding why they’re afraid of the pretty bullets. “Kārtības sargi” takes a shot at policemen and how they misuse their authority.
The sixth track, “Neviens,” is not as dark as the former two, but the lyrics strike true: “No one wants to be young, No one wants to be old” and “Girls dress like women, boys act like men; Women dress like girls, men act like boys.” It’s an age-old truth that everyone can identify with.
“Putnubiedeklis,” the seventh track, is from the point of view of a scarecrow and also deals with social issues. Personally, it makes me think of the horror film Jeepers Creepers and then I don’t want to hear anymore.
The eighth and ninth tracks are a bit tongue-in-cheek. “Dogma,” like the title indicates, is about certain social rules. “Sakrāls sakars” is also like the song title suggests, a song about a minister who goes astray.
The next few tracks are again more somber, but the album finishes up with Tumors’ well-known song, “Panka nav miris” or “Panks nat ded.” The song isn’t about the punk music genre, but more an observation on the narrator’s part on how the personality or character type “punk” is still alive and well. The song is upbeat and involving, the album ends on a good note, and 35 minutes of fun have been had.
I find it interesting that such a different type of music is easily accepted. I’ll admit that the first time through the album I wasn’t sure this kind of music worked in Latvian, but Tumors does it justice. It’s hard to explain exactly why the music is good—there’s just a general goodness about it. For people who may want to be confronted with real-life issues in a relaxed and unobtrusive manner (because who likes to be preached to?), or for people looking for something just a little bit different in the Latvian music world, Ideoti is a good place to start. It could very well be that the guys of Tumors had that in mind for themselves.
Raibā taureņa ieraksti, 2007
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