The Launderettes, an all-female rock band from Oslo, Norway, who have been together since 1999, played the final time slot of the night at B.D. Riley’s on March 13, 2014, at South By Southwest — and it was one of the most fun shows I saw all week. The Launderettes play songs in the style of 1960s girl groups, occasionally dipping back into 1950s styles or evoking later punk-era bands like the B-52s and throwing in a few Theremin solos. A good way to acquaint yourself with this group is the best-of collection Fluff ‘n’ Fold, which came out in 2007 on Steven Van Zandt’s Wicked Cool Record Co. label.
Listening this morning to Greg Kot and Jim DeRogatis playing scary songs on Sound Opinions inspired me to offer my own choice for a Halloween tune. The song is “The Exiled Men” or “Dei Frealause Mein,” from the CD The Sweet Sunny North: Henry Kaiser & David Lindley in Norway. The only thing that might keep this song from scaring you is the fact that the lyrics are sung in Norwegian. But the liner notes in the CD illuminate the story being told. (Does anyone out there have the actual lyrics in Norwegian and/or English? I’d love to get the actual text.) Here’s how the liner notes tell the tale:
“The words tell the grim story of some exiled outlaws who set sail on Christmas eve — a time when nobody went out on the ocean due to the many strange spirits out and about at such times. They were shipwrecked near the Shetland Islands. Their boat froze in the ice and they stayed there for nine years. Finally they decided to resort to cannibalism in order to survive. They drew lots to decide who would be eaten first. Unfortunately the sailor among them lost and after the others ate him they realized that now there was no one to captain the boat. So they prayed to God and suddenly a big bird came from heaven and stood on top of the boat’s mast and a wind came and took the boat and the men away.”
This is a West Nordic ballad that may come from the Faroe Islands or Iceland, and on the CD, it is performed with chilling beauty by the Norwegian singer Kirsten Bråten Berg, accompanied by David Lindley on the Turkish saz.