Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Tampere POP

Two generations of Tampere POP: Iisa Pajula of Regina and Minna Joenniemi of Super

Last Friday Valo, Tampere's morning paper Aamulehti's weekend supplement ran a cover story on this town's pop scene, written by Tero Kartastenpää (a guy I somehow know through Juri). Not "pop" as in Britney Spears or Metallica or anything in Top 10, but more specifically as pop has been defined by a little group of local hipsters (or hipster wannabes): indiepop, alternative pop or Britpop. (That same Friday night there was also an Aamulehti-organised club at Yo-Talo to showcase three bands of the current Tampere pop generation: I Was A Teenage Satan Worshipper, Tigerbombs and Regina.) And what the heck: even yours truly was there as a small footnote as the story's illustration featured a flyer for our own Electric Pleasures club, back in 1998.

The local definition of POP: bottle-black moptop hairdos, jangly guitars, cheap tinny-sounding keyboards, a bit mod-inspired and/or second-hand clothing (60s, 70s and 80s styles recycled with a combination of irony and the retro cool-worshipping) and general Anglophilia (with a bit of Swedish, French and Japanese flavours maybe); attitudes ranging somewhere in between irony, lacony and child-like innocence and naivety. Musical heros: Morrissey and The Smiths, Brett Anderson of Suede, Jarvis Cocker of Pulp, Stone Roses; with some Depeche Mode, The Cure and a hint of goth thrown in, too. Effeminate and limp-wristed, vaguely androgynous but not actually gay; more like enjoying the sexual ambivalence of it all, but too shy to ever actually have sex with any members of either gender (a famous quote from Brett Anderson: "I'm a bisexual who has never had a homosexual experience"). This has been the hermetically-sealed world of Tampere POP from the late 80s to its mid-90s heyday, and the influence of it can still be felt in today's local music scene.

My hometown Tampere has been called "Finland's Manchester" since the early days of industrialization. This has something vaguely to do with its traditional textile factories and the general grim red-brick look of the proletariat town than it really reminiscing this Northern England town, but as it always happens with any myths, they keep generating themselves until no one can be sure of their real origins. Perhaps some wise-ass in the 80s decided: "Aha: Tampere is Finland's Manchester -- so we need here our own counterparts of Morrissey, The Smiths, Joy Division, New Order, Factory Records and Hacienda Club". Tero Kartastenpää's story accounted this history from the early No Go clubs at Laterna to Yo-Talo's legendary(?) Pop-Disko nights of the 90s to the diaspora of Tampere pop scenesters to the fleshpots of Helsinki, and the 21st century new generation of POP wannabes.

I should know something about this since I was there too. Never as an insider, though, but observing it somewhere on the fringe of the scene. Actually I've known quite a many of these people, if only on a superficial, giving-a-nod-when-we-meet basis. All these bands created out of the scene: Happy Ever After, Super, Coo, Romantic Vision a.k.a. Kinetic, and so on. I was never actually interested in being a part of any scene, but I was often attending local club nights whether they were (Brit/indie)pop, rock, techno/rave (or whatever subgenre -- at some point drum'n'bass became really big in Tampere, fuelled by the efforts of such people as Riku "DJ Infekto" Pentti), industrial or even Gothic (for the latter two there were Laterna's Frantic clubs and magazine and Cyberware label): in a small town there was (and is) always a lot of overlapping and everyone knowing everyone else. Basically the same core group of people doing their own music and playing in bands, working at record stores (or even running them), DJing and organising parties, writing for music magazines, and so on. Everything very inbred and clique-y; on the other hand quite loose to allow also the "tourists" to mingle in freely with hardcore members. I guess the hardcore are still there when the tourists have moved on, to Helsinki or to their cosy middle-aged people's family lives.

And here the nerve-shattering Part II!


Juri said...

I myself didn't really care about the music, but since I was at least at the fringes of the Tampere-POP movement (mainly via knowing at least 50 % of the guys and gals), I thought that Valo's piece was very nice and brought back many memories. (I also got to hear the opposite opinion: the head honchos at the Yo-talo didn't really care about the invasion of the pop younsters and they thought at one point to raise the age limit...)

I'm at the moment listening to the I Was A Teenage &c., but I'm sorry to say it does nothing for me. Nice though it is, and not bad in any sense of the word.

pHinn said...

The head honchos at Yo-Talo club were initially not too excited about the nascent Tampere hip-hop scene, either, since as a consequence of any hiphop night, Yo-Talo's staff always found the men's room bombed with tags and graffiti. But what do you know: soon Finnish hiphop hit the charts, and even the management of Yo-Talo found hiphop nights drawing in loads of people to which they could sell tankfuls of beer, since the thirst of B-boys was seemingly endless. Thus hiphop received its official blessing there. Morale: money always overcomes any reservations.

Juri said...

But the main problem with the pop pinheads (pinnipäät) was that they didn't drink enough beer! They were either too young or too poor. (Or too cool to drink beer...)

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