Hjernen er Alene
(Sonet Norsk Grammofon, 1989)

I don't recall why I picked up a CD by deLillos during an April 1990 holiday in Norway. Perhaps one of my friends played a song for me, or perhaps I was just struck by the soulful eyes of the white dog on the cover.

Whatever the reason, I'm glad I did.

Happy-fun folk-rock is probably the best way to describe the album. The 22 tracks are sung entirely in Norwegian, and I'll be the first to admit I understand fewer than a dozen words in that language. But who needs to know what they're saying when the tunes are so good?

From the bouncy beginning with "Fastsangen" to the raucos "Mine Peanotter Er Ikke Gode," from the bluesy "Woo Doo" to the spritely "Tikk Takk," deLillos maintains a somewhat giddy mien throughout. This is a band you just know enjoys its work.

I could swear some of the songs, like "Triste Dager" and "Balladen om Kare og Nelly," are telling stories. Others are probably just cheerful refrains or nonsense lyrics, but don't expect me to prove it. Well, there is the high-spirited "Snill og Smart," which a Norwegian-speaking friend back in 1990 translated as "Nice and Smart" and is all about the singer's pleasant habits like washing his socks and reading classic Russian literature each night before sleeping. There's another one I was told is about the guilt involved in knowing that people around the world are starving, but still just not liking that ubiquitous brown Norwegian cheese.

You get the idea. I suspect Lars Lillo-Stenber, Lars Fredrik Beckstrom and Oystein Paasche are the Scandinavian answer to They Might Be Giants.

The album comes with lyrics, scrawled in someone's lousy penmanship inside the cover. Of course they're in Norwegian, but I suppose anyone curious enough could translate the words and learn what the band is saying. Who knows? Perhaps somewhere buried deep in one of these songs is the philosophical answer to all my questions, but somehow I doubt I'll ever bother to find out.

Don't worry about the words, folks. If you get your piggies on deLillos, do so. Slip it into your stereo and remind yourself that, even when we can't all understand each other all the time, every culture in the world understands a smile and a laugh.

[ by Tom Knapp ]