||THE SITTING BULL AND THE BULLSHITTERS
Roger Berzerk Fauske
As a brief intro to the band, I will let their more than eloquent words give you a hint of what to expect.
"Somewhere in the south east of Finland, by the river Kymi, this small town has during the past years gathered more and more superb bands. New and old at the same time, The Sitting Bull And The Bullshitters has risen his big and ugly head in the Karhula music scene... Bullshitting hobocreatures and other great rock musicians from Karhula have often been conceived by this same bunch of people. The "Karhula-Scene" is now bit more smoother, gloomy and sensitive because of ...Bullshitters!"
Very well put chaps. Musically think of the classic rock era, even going further back to the 70s. There is a smattering of the prog sound mixed into the pot but not to the extent that you would call them a prog band, thank God.
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The band was formed by vocalist Markku Pihlaja, mainly known from the bands Manitou and Kaihoro and the guys have basically been ensconced in various locations, like some musical hobbits, putting together this album after feedback from live shows proved their sound was a more than welcome addition to the already impressive Finnish rock scene.
So what does the result of their hermit like existence sound like? As a guide before we delve deeper, I already mentioned the classic rock and prog side of things. If that is your poison then you will love this from the first few bars and even if you don't see yourself as an aficionado of the aforementioned styles, there will still be more than enough to keep your ears listening, not to mention your foot tapping.
First up is 'Supernatural' and big intro leads into melodious riffs filled with more than its fair share of body jiggling dust. When the vocals come into the mix, they fit perfectly, passionate and with great tonal quality. With so much of this type of sound, the melodic content is all important and these guys have it in abundance so that is that box ticked.
For all the expressions of guitar, vocals and rhythm system, the part that pushes it up a level or two from merely good is the great keyboard (well more organ than keyboard) sound. It really does hark back to the days when the Hammond was king and such geniuses as Jon Lord and Rick Wakeman were in their pomp. It is well written into the track as well as just being there, gap filling and on top of the sound in equal impressive proportions.
'Soulseeker' gives a dose of the organ at the beginning, vocals adding a little more darkness this time but still with an upbeat mood. The songwriting is top notch, storytelling at its best, musically the harmonic mid-section especially standing out. There is a deep throaty organ solo leading to some very interesting guitar just in case there was a danger of it becoming predictable and the closing nifty organ where you maybe would expect to hear the guitar powering the song to its conclusion is a nice twist.
'No Flowers On Gravestone' kicks off within that Wild West feeling, vocals this time taking over with thoughtful, provocative emotion. The chorus is another melodic empowerment, memorable and foot thumping inducing, backing vocals adding more than a little to the sound. The haunting guitar and reverberating organ bring it all to a close, another winner.
'Rusty Leaf' carries on in the same vein, more melodic interchanges between guitar and keys especially, vocals on top of the game, rhythm section pulling the whole thing along. The guitar sound on this one is an interesting one but goes hand in hand with the deeper fuller organics of, well, the organ.
'Musical Sensation' is a lot more upbeat and has an almost peculiar punk undertone to it. Think punk with the anger removed, yes I know it's somewhat of a contradiction in terms but just do it. There is nothing in the way of musical genius to this one but it just works so very well, all the parts coming together to make a more than impressive sum and the feel good factor is enough to keep the Samaritans out of a job fr at least a few hours.
'Giants' digs a little into the proggy side, haunting keys leading to quickening drums, tempo wise a little 'Pinball Wizard', vocals even leaning to the old Genesis sound. A good track again, well written (which will be no surprise by now) although to my ears it just needed that something extra to drive it along with more impetus but if prog is your thing, you will love it.
The interestingly titled 'Godforsaken Goddess' carries on very much in the prog theme but not as heavily laden in that direction. This one has an intriguing title and is also musically full of intrigue – to the casual listener it will sound very straightforward in construction but it is far from that, subtle nuances all over the place, time signature even seeming to drift into that hurry up mode.
'K-Town River Banks' goes back to the body shaking, some very cool funky rhythm laying waste to the backing. This one has many levels to it, the guitar in the middle, clean as a plucked violin (that word was plucked) before introducing its fair share of widdling. But it is that funky choppy rhythm going on that really draws the attention, not to mention the involuntary spasms that just can't be avoided. Something more than good is brewing here, and I don't just mean the vodka (yes I know technically that isn't brewing, but you get the drift).
'Let It Flow' is next and well named as it more than flows from the off. Powerful vocals, a feature of the album, complimented by some more foot jangling melodics. This is another upbeat one guaranteed to put anyone who has a bad day in more than a good mood. There is the odd (odd as in occasional, not strange) glimpse of some southern rock thrown in to the pot before it is given a good stir and let's be honest if you want some foot tapping, there ain't nothing better than rock of the Southern variety.
So to the album closer, 'Cry For The Ocean', and yet another inspirational piece of work, both in music and construct. Emotionally, this will draw on a plethora of feelings, some mood dependant, some linked to the age old effects of minor chords and the like on the inner most being and trust me it will get into your soul. Musically it is probably the most straightforward piece of writing on the album but also one of the most effective in delivery.
So that, as they say, is your lot and the question at this juncture is always how good, or otherwise, was it? Was it good for you? Actually that last one may be something else entirely but anyway. Leaving that one aside for the minute, the answer to the first question is undoubtedly damn good. Musically, song writing and feel – it has it all.
Intriguingly I haven't heard a lot of this type of album for many a year and as much as it owes its existence to what came before, it isn't derivative of its predecessors, but takes influences from them to create something different. The crowning achievement, to my ears at least, is the organ/keys. Whilst that sound is not a new one and albums appear with that sound making sporadic contributions, on this it is one of the key components, maybe the key component underpinning the music as a whole.
I don't want to sound as if the rest is just making up the numbers – far from it. The guitar takes on many different and varied personas, sound changing with the mood of the song, and hits the spot whether it is the chugging rhythm or widdliness, of which there is plenty. The rhythm section does just what a rhythm section should, drawing the battle lines for the troops to follow, pounding out its message, filling where fills should be but never overpowering for the sake of it.
Last but most definitely not least, the vocals are at times inspirational, evoking emotional response and that is as much as you can do, transporting the sentiments of the subject matter deep into the listener.
So what are the bad points? There normally are but in this case only the most pedantic of individuals could find criticism in this. If I had to point my waggly digit at one aspect, it would be the drum sound on some of the mix. Whilst the mix is generally good and the whole shooting match is well produced, the drums sound a little too over produced on some tracks,that beefiness is missing, that live sound. But that is just my preference.
Just one final thought, what's in a name? There may be some prospective listeners who are put off by the name of the band but from a personal point of view if this is bullshit, then I am all for it.
Matti Suhonen – Drums
Antti Huopainen – Organ
Ismo Laukkanen – Bass
Antti Lauren – Guitar
Markku Pihlaja – Vocals, Acoustic guitar