Thursday, April 26, 2012

Finnish punk rock with a twist

Pertti Kurikka's Name Day
Pertti Kurikka’s Name Day formed just three years ago, and the four-member Finnish punk band already has a film about it in Canadian theatres.

It's not because the group is set to become the next Clash or Green Day, but because of its interesting story. Singer Kari Aalto, guitarist Pertti Kurikka, bassist Sami Helle and the youngster of the band, 27-year-old drummer Toni Valitalo, all have developmental disabilities.

They have temper tantrums, threaten to quit the group and fill rooms with expletives. But so do a lot of bands.
Pertti Kurikka

Few, however, have a guitarist who claims he has a poisonous vest that has killed 400 people or a grey-haired singer who's about to get engaged but still doesn't know how babies are made. But Aalto's very aware that he hates pedicures when he sings:

"Why doesn't anybody understand that they always force me/To hang out with these bastards and go for a pedicure/Fuckin' pedicurists/They all suck big time/They just take care of your feet/They don't understand/Why the hell do pedicurists exist?/That's something I never figured out/They force me/They force me/It sucks that they force me to get a pedicure/I don't understand."

Kari Aalto
Of course, all the words are sung in Finnish, as is all the spoken dialogue in the 85-minute The Punk Syndrome which makes its North American premiere on April 28 and receives two more screenings as part of the Hot Docs festival. But the subtitles keep your attention as you wait to hear what lyrics will come next, perhaps something along these lines: "It was a Sunday/I went to church/I had coffee/I took a dump."

But the plight of what the band members have faced in their lives comes to the forefront in other songs, and shows that the rebelliousness and anti-authoritarianism that the Sex Pistols spit out at the world 35 years ago can still resonate even with people who aren't fully functional on their own in society. "Decision-Makers Are Cheaters" is a prime example:

"Decision-makers lock people up in closed rooms/But we don't wanna be in those rooms/Nobody looks after us/Nobody comes to visit us/What's going to happen to us orphans in those rooms?/Decision-makers cheat/Cheaters make decisions/They don't give a shit about us disabled."
Sami Helle

Saying that the singing and playing is far from polished would be an understatement, but Pertti Kurikka’s Name Day has developed a bit of a cult following after playing shows in its homeland and Germany and releasing three EPs. I don't know whether people who go to the band's shows genuinely like the music or they're being patronizing, but the joy you see in the four members' faces when they leave the stage can't leave you feeling anything but good for them.

“The film tells about Pertti Kurikka’s Name Day … so it’s about one retard who sings punk and three retards who play punk," says Aalto. "You should watch it and think about whether you should hate disabled people or love and respect them.”

Toni Valitalo
The characters aren't necessarily loveable, and you may sometimes find yourself laughing at them, but in the end The Punk Syndrome enables you to establish the respect they're looking for.

Watch the trailer here.