Eppu Normaali (Finnish translation of "Abby Normal," from Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein) is one of the most popular bands -- perhaps the most popular -- in the history of Finnish rock music. They have recorded 13 studio albums since their inception in 1976 -- nine of these have gone platinum and the rest gold. They've sold over a million albums in Finland, which is a significant amount for a country of five million, and are the rare Finnish act able to sell out 30,000 tickets in a stadium concert. They began as an irreverent punk band that turned toward guitar-oriented rock. Finns have called them "the poor man's Dire Straits," although their output is far more varied than that of Mark Knopfler.
Eppu Normaali was founded by two brothers, Martti Syrjä (vocals) and Mikko Syrjä (guitar), their cousin Aku Syrjä (drums), as well as Juha Torvinen (lead guitar) and Mikko Saarela (bass). With the exception of the bass player, the band has remained with the same lineup from the beginning. Eppu Normaali started recording their Ramones and Sex Pistols inspired freewheeling punk rock in 1977. Their first album Aknepop ("Acnepop" 1978), was among the earliest and most popular records on the early Finnish punk scene. Their sarcastic and hilarious songs, such as "Poliisi Pamputtaa Taas" ("The Police Pounces Again") were beloved by both the music press and the kids, while the mainstream and adult contemporary crowds were either unimpressed or hostile. Their second album, Maximum Jee Jee ("Maximum Yeah Yeah" 1979), had the sharp edges filed away, and the pace was reduced from the chaotic debut album. Combined with clever pop hooks and melodies, this slower pace resulted in a record some new wave purists consider the finest Eppu Normaali would record. The main lyricist and bass player Mikko Saarela decided to quit the band after Maximum Jee Jee and was quickly replaced by Mikko "Vaari" Nevalainen. Saarela continued contributing the majority of lyrics to the next two albums before quitting the band for good. Their third album, Akun Tehdas ("Aku's Factory" 1980), was a hit, but the following double-live album and 1982's Cocktail Bar sold poorly to mixed reviews. Tie Vie ("The Road Takes" 1983) continued the downward spiral despite the inclusion of one of their most loved songs, "Murheellisten Laulujen Maa" ("The Land of Sad Songs"). Aku ja Köyhat Pojat ("Aku and the Poor Boys" 1984) -- the second of their Creedence Clearwater Revival mock-ups -- failed equally to connect with the audience. All of these records would eventually sell either gold or platinum -- and most would become classics of Suomi-Rock (Finn rock).
Between 1984 and 1986, Eppu Normaali recorded three knockout classics. Rupisia Riimejä, Karmeita Trinoita ("Scabby Rhymes, Horrific Tales" 1984) began their resurgence. It's not that significant an improvement over the previous albums, but the songs struck a chord with the public. What followed, Kahdeksas Ihme ("The Eight Wonder" 1985), is considered by many the best rock album ever released in Finland. Songs like "Vuonna '85" ("In the Year '85") are musically catchy, multi-layered, and melodic, while succinctly conveying melancholy and desperation, both important song subjects for most Finns. The lyrics of Martti Syrjä are more introspective than those of Mikko Saarela and speak more directly of and to the average Finn than perhaps any other lyricist of his generation. The trio of masterpieces was completed by Valkoinen Kupla ("The White Bubble" 1986), which is even darker and more introspective in tone.
Imperiumin Vastaisku ("The Empire Strikes Back" 1988) and Historian Suurmiehiä ("Great Men of History" 1990) were still consistent and hugely popular, but the band took longer and longer to write and record their songs. Nevalainen quit the band in 1989, and Sami Ruusukallio took his place. After Studio Etana ("Studio Snail" 1993) the band took 11 years to prepare their next album. In that time, Eppu Normaali released rarities, live albums, and a massively popular double-CD compilation Repullinen Hittejä ("A Bag Full of Hits" 1996), which reached number two on the list of bestselling Finnish albums ever. Sadan Vuoden Päästäkin ("Even After a Hundred Years") was finally released in 2004. Syvään Päähän ("To the Deep End") followed in 2007. ~ JT Lindroos