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Ajattara's year 2007 hasn't been easy. The band practically broke up and reformed in a much less powerful form. The new album, Kalmanto , hasn't been a critical success by any standards, and the new line-up doesn't work nearly as well live as the old one did; at least not yet. They downtuned their guitars, and in the process lost the scraping edge that made their dry sound so familiar and tempting. But the one thing that remains is the tradition of a Christmas single. Tulppaani is the fourth in the series, and once again makes good use of cover material. All is not lost, and maybe future still brings us something bleak enough to be worth all the expectations. Maybe.
The two-track single's first song is from Ajattara's own inventory, and once again will not be featured on any full-length, making the single a probable future collectible. The style, including the unfortunate downtuning, is exactly the same as found on Kalmanto , but the song itself works much better than the album; perhaps they have learned in the process, and now know how to write their downtuned, fleshier material. While the old Ajattara sound was akin to a good-quality recording of someone scraping the last strips of tendons off the bones of a dessicated corpse with a rusty crowbar, the downtuned riffs covered with a much more abundant matress of synths resemble wading knee-deep in oatmeal porridge.
Or perhaps the listener has learned has grown used to it? Perhaps exposure to new soundscapes just takes its time and turns repulsion into an attractive force. The most likely explanation here is different, though. A single song is short enough not to grow tedious, and porridge is better in smaller servings; bigger bowls grow cold too fast and the last splatters are always too difficult to swallow. Whatever the reason may be, Tulppaani is an easy listening experience, but eventually also rather hollow; there's nothing to stick on the mind, and unlike with so many early Ajattara songs, there's no compulsion to hum/screech/growl it afterwards. It's mediocre, in other words.
The real beef in Ajattara's christmas singles, with the exception of the very first one, Ilon päivä , has been the cover songs found on them. This year they've chosen an unknown classic by M.A.Numminen, a finnish goof-ball, Joulupukki puree ja lyö. The title roughly translates to "Santa Claus Bites and Beats", and the lyrics describe a Christmas Eve at a home. A beardless Santa comes crashing through the door, beats the whole family up, steals the food and drinks, lets in the reindeers to eat everything green and leaves behind a crying family in a destroyed home.
What Ajattara does here is nothing sort of brilliant. The song has been entirely performed a cappella, and on the background of Ruoja's screaming, the rest of the band chants rhythmic sequences of words. First, "mulkku, mulkku, mulkku...", in the second verse, "kyrpä, kyrpä, kyrpä..." and during the rest of the song the same using the words "perse", "tissi" and "pippeli". "Mulkku" and "kyrpä" are rough equivalents of "dick", "perse" means "ass", "tissi" is a "boob" and "pippeli" is a naivistic name for a penis. Added to this is the solo in the middle of the song, replacing a guitar with a manic repetition of "vitun soolo, vitun soolo, vitun soolo...", meaning "fucking solo, fucking solo, fucking solo..."... You simply can't shove more naughty words in a two-minute song, their estimated number goes well beyond 100.
So, while the first song is simply scraping the bottom of the songwriting barrel, the second track more than makes up for its shortcomings with a funny punch. Ajattara is not nearly on the same level as on Ilon juhla here, but the band is certainly not ready to be buried just yet. This is a worthy single, and a welcome addition to a nice tradition.
The comedic effect of Joulupukki puree ja lyö made in this way is hilarious, and it's quite understandable that most major stores outside specialized record-stores won't stock this single, especially considering that some rumours tell of old ladies bying the previous christmas singles based on the nice covers and names alone. Think about it and enjoy. Happy holidays!