January 27, 2005

Echo Is Your Love "Paper Cut Eye"

Over the course of seven years, Finnish quintet Echo Is Your Love has progressed from being their country’s leading Sonic Youth impersonators to developing a slightly more distinct sound. Their 2001 debut Sheets of Blank Fucking Paper bit its entire shtick from EVOL-era Sonic Youth, with songs constructed of little more than plodding tempos, chiming guitars and dissonant crescendos that never resolved themselves. Two albums later, that seminal band’s influence is still present. On “Pleasures Unknown,” singer Nea Helsto longs for music to lift her out of a purposeless life with the chorus, “I think of Thurston and I think of Kim/and I know I gotta quit this shit.” In spite of their indebtedness to SY, on their third album Paper Cut Eye EIYL delivers a set of sharper, faster and catchier songs that can also occasionally be compared to the virtuoso punk of Pretty Girls Make Graves.

All of the basic elements of PGMG’s sound --- tom-heavy drumming, a relentless busy twin-guitar attack, and three-note female crooning --- are especially present during the album’s first half. During these songs, Echo Is Your Love demonstrates a knack for acerbic verse that eludes many other bands who don’t write songs in their native language. “We Don’t Speak Numbers” makes fun of scenesters who hop on leftist trends: “Five-year revolution/’Till university graduation/Time flies and when the bands are gone/we move on.” “Children in Lines” laments a growing generation gap: “I gotta build something [of my] own/but you can’t give me the tools/our codes don’t match/and we don’t share any dreams.”

The band doesn’t start dipping into Sonic Youth’s bag of tricks until “Tuua,” when Helsto explores the higher end of her range as the guitarists layer pretty yet out-of-tune melodies on top of each other. Unfortunately, this song goes on for a bit too long, and the track that comes next is even worse. “I Don’t Go to My Friends’ Parties ‘Cause Everyone Looks So Old” starts off as a promising burst of Unwound-style punk, with a bass line that Vern Rumsey would’ve killed to write, only to squash its own potential with terrible spoken verses and off-key choruses. Fortunately, the band quickly rebounds from these two missteps with a closing suite of songs more furious than anything on SY’s last two albums, each one more abrasive than its predecessor.

On “Haste Nowhere,” Nea makes good on the lessons that Kim Gordon taught her by turning what is supposed to be a plea of love into a menacing command. Her voice turns the phrase “I love you” into a drawn-out sneer until the band reaches a wah-drenched crescendo. On “Shadow of Stockholm,” she dismisses an antagonist who has lived in the same city for seven years without making any progress in his own life. The hissing drums and high-pitched guitars keep the song moving at a steady pace until it is abruptly interrupted by the kind of white noise blast that SY hasn’t unleashed on record in almost a decade. “Adult Situation No Kisses” segues through jarring soft/loud transitions for two minutes, goes into double-time, and then slowly dissipates into grinding cacophony for the next four. By the time the song ends, it sounds less like a rock band and more like a power plant undergoing a severe meltdown.

Who knows? Maybe Echo Is Your Love is the most cutting-edge rock band in Finland right now. They certainly aren’t getting any originality points on this side of Atlantic. However, as I’ve said many times before, a band doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel to be good, and on Paper Cut Eye EIYL definitely asserts itself as a force to be reckoned with.

---Sean Padilla

Artist Website: http://www.ifsociety.com/echo
Label Website: www.stickfiguredistro.com

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