The 69 Eyes Master the Rock Pose
by Jonathan Mander :: 2009
A true rock'n'roll show is about role-playing. What you do in the daytime is irrelevant, if by night you strike the rock pose and act the role of the ultimate rock'n'roll star on stage. The 69 Eyes have mastered this firm rock star presence. No wonder they call themselves vampires, the other beings that only appear at night in their true form.
Of course this rock star posturing can seem old-fashioned, but The 69 Eyes clearly miss the 1970's, when rock bands were mysterious and inhuman. And the rock posture of these guys does not crack even if their leather jackets creak. They even seem to be like true vampires, who never age – even if the youngest member of the band will be 40 in 2011. In fact, maturity adds to the men's presence.
Perhaps those qualities were lacking, when The 69 Eyes started out in Finland, releasing debut album Bump'n'Grind in 1992. A new era for The 69 Eyes dawned as they started turning up their gothic influences becoming the missing link between Mötley Crüe and Sisters of Mercy. This lead to more European touring and in 2006 their breakthrough in the U.S. began and the band had its first tour there. Clearly a band's career can have many cycles of revival and even reinvention.
Best time for vampires
In the first half of the 1990's The 69 Eyes were strictly hard rock'n'roll with motorcycle rebel looks leaning more on denim than leather. Wasting the Dawn (1999) was the band's first real step into a darker direction with Blessed Be (2000) providing the hit singles that got the attention of mainstream audiences. The songs Brandon Lee and Gothic Girl earned The 69 Eyes integrity that had been missing in the general music fan's eyes. The band did, after all, often seem a bit lost in its own rock stylings. But The 69 Eyes kept their cool, didn't care about the doubters and went on to release their two most successful albums in Finland, Paris Kills (2002) and Devils (2004), both of which reached platinum record status.
Everything simply started to get better from there. The cycle of popular culture was shifting to a place more than accepting of The 69 Eyes' style and influences. The world was becoming a perfect place for them as comic book exaggerations, horror flick special effects and B-movie monsters became popular again. All the stuff The 69 Eyes were always about. It is a band whose members call themselves vampires and say things like "Fangs a lot". Just a quick glance at 2009 cultural landscape and you see vampires more popular than ever with the aid of Twilight and True Blood. Perfect for this group of Finns, whose ninth studio album arrived just in time in August 2009. It is called Back in Blood, and claims that "Blood is the new black". They might be onto something.
In the early days fitting in was unlikely, as All Music's reviewer notes when he writes about sophomore set Savage Garden: "[In 1995] issuing an album that sounded influenced by the likes of the Cult and Mötley Crüe was about as far from expected as possible," he wrote in reference to the still ongoing boom of grunge rock that had originated from Seattle.
Actual "fitting in" is never a rock band's objective, since its duty is to represent rebellion against society's conservative norms. In this case fitting into the trends of the popular culture must have made a difference reaching an audience stateside. After the first U.S. tour the band has been back regularly, and recorded Back in Blood in Hollywood with producer Matt Hyde. The video for the album's first single Dead Girls Are Easy was directed by Bam Margera, the bad boy of TV series Jackass. He also directed the video for The 69 Eyes' tribute to 1980s teen-vampire flick The Lost Boys.
Hard work & consistency
"We've worked so hard over the last two years since Angels was released. We played around 125 shows worldwide but all our sacrifices paved the way for this baby. Back in Blood is a culmination of 20 years worth of hard work," said Jyrki 69 around the release of Back in Blood.
For long some have liked to undermine The 69 Eyes for being rockers just as a hobby, since Jyrki Linnankivi aka Jyrki 69 is qualified biochemist. But can't you really say such things, when he and the band have spent 200 days on the road as they did in 2007. The other way around perhaps: Rock'n'roll is first and foremost in the lives of these musicians, and what they are in another life is not relevant, when we are discussing the rock side of things.
The spokesmen of the band, singer Jyrki 69 and drummer Jussi 69, have such strong rock credibility among their fans that they can feature in Nokia ads (as they are doing in 2009) without losing face. Moreover, it takes a special quality and undoubted charisma to be the toughest vampire on the block by night and Unicef's Goodwill Ambassador the next morning as Jyrki is.
The 69 Eyes will never be musical innovators nor should they be, since pure-bred rock entertainment is their game. And they convince people when they do it in their deadpan and sincere style. At least it has proved a better recipe for longevity than being self-ironic like the UK's one-album-wonder The Darkness.