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cover art by Kari Sipilä

When looked from afar, it may seem that punk rock emerged practically out of nothing in 1976/77, but that is not the case. There had been many names that had greatly influenced the first punk rock bands: New York Dolls in The US (and The Stooges and MC5 before that), Dr. Feelgood and other pub rock bands in The UK. And then there was Virtanen in Finland. In the mid 1970's Finland bands that emphasized the raw energy of rock'n'roll rather than the virtuosity of instruments were few and far between. Virtanen, however, played raunchy and energetic rock and had a reputation of having wild stage shows. Many people who were active in Finnish punk rock scene in the late 1970's have later stated that Virtanen was an important early influence when they were forming their own bands.

Hal-00, Virtanen's debut album, contains some of their best known songs, most notably the often covered Elektroninen xtaasi (even a very psychedelic music video was made of that song). Other highlights on the album are the opening track Clark Kent, an amusing story of the Superman's alter ego, and Harley Davidson, with Moog Konttinen really spot-on on vocals, and a nice theremin-ish Moog solo in the end. Perhaps the most surprising track on the album is Hottentotti, a (politically incorrect, especially by modern standards) children's tune of Norwegian origin. The lyrics are unchanged, but the delivery is very much different from the original Finnish version of the song. The other cover song recorded for the album, a decent-but-not-great version of The Who's My generation, is much more predictable choice. There is, however, one thing that all the songs have in common: throughout the whole album, the guitars sound oddly thin. The songs would probably have sounded even better with rougher guitars.

It is also worth mentioning that, contrary to general understanding, the album title is not "Haloo" ("Hello"/"Hallo", as in the thing one says when answering the telephone), but HAL-00. In the book Space Odyssey (and the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey) the highly intelligent computer is called HAL-9000. Virtanen's HAL-00 (double zero) is the opposite of that: the stupidest computer possible.

HAL-00 was released on CD in 1993 with two bonus tracks, Lolita and 20 j.J.D., taken from the 1975 single.

(Note: this review was written for Love LP)

text by Jarkko Kuivanen
Love LP
Love CD