Reviews 2109

Cosmic Norwegian raga acid folk-rock mania! Bergen´s prolific producer/composer/nutjob Hans Petter Gundersen has guided Sondre Lerche and Madrugada ti heady heights but rarely enjoyed the kudos himself. But, after stumbling over Stephen Stills´ secret tuning for "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" he´s mixed a mega dose of folkadelic blue sunshine. Bookended by the happy-clappy "Mother Nature" (like The Cowsills via Charlie Manson) and "Melodi Grand Prox 63"´s dreamy bossa nova, 30-minute centrepiece "The Ballad Of Billy And Lilly" is a song-cycle woven with kaleidoscopic stitching. Underpinning Heidi Goodbye´s spacey, girly presence (a tad Victoria Williams) are drones, pedal and steel guitars that expand the album´s horizons to take in raga, hoedowns, California-breezy folk and Appalachian thrumming on an altogether beguiling and irresistibly trippy trip. 4/5.
Mojo (UK)

You´ll find yourself loving this despite yourself. Producer and guitarist HP Gundersen has hit upon a fairly standard raga tuning lifted from Stephen Stills and proceeds to play what amounts to a seemingly endless selection of variations on "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes". Heidi Goodbye is the archetypal folksy indie chanteuse, so selfconsciously twee and "ironic" that she makes the singer from The Cardigans sound like Howlin´Wolf. The arrangements are tastefully fleshed out with acoustic instrumentation, evoking a kind of Country music in sledgehammer-obvious inverted commas. But try as I might - and the above shows how hard I tried - I can´t bring myself to dislike this. The heart of the album, the unpromisingly titled "The Ballad Of Billy And Lilly" is an expertly paced and beautifully produced half-hour suite that leaves poor old Crosby, Stills & Nash trampled in the dirt. It´s maddeningly well executed. The Last Hurrah!! have seduced me - the bastards!
Wire (UK)

This Norwegian outfit is the brainchild of HP Gundersen, producer, multi-instrumentalist and music enthusiast. He is a fan of drone guitar, but before you shut-off, he utilises it very artistically alongside slide and pedal steel along with extra colouring from harmonica,violin, tambura and various percussion instruments provided by guest players. Vocals are handled by Heidi Goodbye, a superb singer, who although trained to sing jazz, is more suited to country and old-style hillbilly. They open with a revived version of "Mother Nature", a folky tune from the 1970 album by Norwegian cult band Oriental Sunshine. A wonderful country-folk treatment that begs for instant replay. That is followed by the thirty-minute "The Ballad Of Billy And Lilly", a sordid saga that takes so many twists and turns it could be half-a-dozen songs all wrapped up in one lenghty but enthralling track. 4/5.
Maverick (UK)

The Last Hurrah!! comprise sundry local musicians and the pixie-like pipes of gloriously named vocalist Heidi Goodbye... This record is a masterclass in cosmic country-folk. Goodbye skitters above Gundersen´s dazzling guitar lines, at their best on the epic centrepiece "The Ballad Of Billy And Lilly". A bizarre and twisted tale that really isn´t the best advert for anyone seeking true love, it´s 30-plus minutes of cantering acoustic picking, psychedelic reveries, bolts of bouzouki and mournful trumpet. Either side of it is a cover of Oriental Sunshine´s hippified 1970 anthem "Mother Nature" and Gundersen´s glistening "tribute" to Norway´s history in the Eurovision Song Contest, "Melodi Grand Prix 63". Compulsive listening all around.
Classic Rock Presents Prog (UK)

The resulting album, augmented by other top Norwegians, centres on the 30-minute "Ballad of Billy and Lilly", a harmony-heavy, 1970s-rock reading of American roots music, with surging movements and Goodbye´s insistently upbeat vocals. The Last Hurrah!! sound like the folk-blues monk John Fahey jamming with a Van Dyke Parks orchestra, or Fleet Foxes suddenly sprouting massive Scandinavian meatball cojones.
Sunday Times (UK)

HP Gunderson, the Norwegian musical mastermind behind The Last Hurrah, has produced an album that certain individuals might deem to be a classic. By ‘certain individuals’, I am generally referring to bearded men of a certain age, who are perhaps partial to the occasional puff of the green stuff. This is partly because two of the record’s three tracks (‘Mother Nature’ and ‘Melodi Grand Prix 63’) frequently sound a little like Van Morrison’s ‘60s masterpiece ‘Astral Weeks’ being covered by Neil Young after taking some very strange drugs. It’s all shimmery acoustics and pastoral imagery- the sort of thing that might enable said bearded pot-smokers to have a ‘moment’ while listening to it in front of the Jazz World Stage at Glastonbury. Centrepiece track ‘The Ballad of Billy and Lilly’, covers just about every type of folk-music imaginable inside it’s colossal 31 minutes, while managing to remain strangely accessible with its engaging female vocal. It’s all somewhat stark and downbeat compared to the relatively summery feel throughout rest of the album though, climaxing with singer Heidi Goodbye wailing “She’ll probably shoot the two of them and kill them both”. All in all, an interesting trip. 4/5.
Artrocker (UK)

The brainchild of Norwegian producer HP Gundersen and singer Heidi Goodbye, "Spiritual Non-Believers" is dominated throughout by the pastoral ringing of open tuned guitar strings, its centrepiece almost thirty-minutes of Laurel Canyon raga and bittersweet story-song. Featuring just three tracks, one of them a slice of nature-loving 60s bliss by obscure Nordic outfit Oriental Sunshine, "The Ballad Of Billy and Lilly" undeniably steals the show here with and epic rollercoaster recounting of the unhappy tale of two childhood sweethearts. Adding a touch of Bossa Nova to the mix as "Melodi Grand Prix 63" closes the proceedings with a south-of-the-border glow, "Spiritual Non-Believers" is a refreshing coctail of country, pop and West Coats summertime swing.
Rock-A-Rolla (UK)

Partnered by fellow Bergen native singer Heidi Goodbye and with the duo backed by a pool of supplementary musicians the three track Spiritual Non Believers opens with a reworking of Norwegian outfit Oriental Sunshine’s breezy 1970 opus ‘Mother Nature’ only for things to take a considerably darker twist on the epic 30 minute ‘The Ballad Of Billy And Lilly’ before finally coming full circle on ‘Melodi Grand Prix 63’ which is intriguingly described as “an unlikely but sweet mix of bossa nova, surf music and Steve Reich”. File under the vibrant sub genre that currently is West Coast Norwegian folk psych.
Shindig (UK)

There is a strange Rorschach-blot quality to the Last Hurrah!!’s debut album Spiritual Non-Believers. I’ve been listening to the record regularly for two weeks, and every spin reveals a new detail or association. It’s a record that somehow manages to be rather simple and straight forward — it is basically a collection of catchy Norwegian folk songs — and wonderfully complex and ambitious. There are only three cuts on the album: An obscure Norwegian psychedelic pop cover at the start, a 31-minute suite about a doomed love affair at the center and a gorgeous bossanova-shoegazer-surf-twee-krautrock melange at the conclusion. It’s all fascinating and engaging, but the main attraction is the epic, which cycles through dozens of hooks and musical ideas in a way that is both surprising and intuitive. At various points I hear echoes of Joanna Newsom, Wilco, Fleetwood Mac, Led Zeppelin, Joni Mitchell, the Fiery Furnaces and Animal Collective, but the overall effect is ultimately rather distinct in its style and charm. I’ve been obsessing over this record for days, and I still feel as though I’m only just scratching the surface in my understanding of it. I heard the album finale at least a dozen times before noticing it was not sung in English. I heard the second part of the “Billy and Lilly” suite even more times before I fully registered this brilliant line in its chorus: “Hit me, hit me, with a bottle or a stone / as long as you are physical I’ll know that I’m not alone.” I’m still picking up on the nuances of transitions between sections, interesting rhythms and tonalities, bits where harmonies seem to fall slightly out of phase. This is a rich, immensely rewarding record and I hope to write about it in greater detail down the line. For now I’m still just enjoying the fact that I still haven’t fully learned all its twists and turns.
Fluxblog (US)

Ein bizarres Album mit beinah schwereloser Popmusik, schillernd zwischen Folkeinflüssen, die Indien an den Mississippi verlegen (laut Plattenfirma aber obskure norwegische Tunes verarbeiten), und akustischer Psychedelia ist HP Gundersons „Spiritual Non-Believers“. Gemeinsam mit seiner Landsfrau, der Sängerin Heidi Goodbye, hat der norwegische Produzent und Meister der „Acoustic drone guitar“ für „Spiritual Non-Believers“ nur drei Nummern aufgenommen, die es allerdings in sich haben. Das Mittelstück des Albums nennt sich „The Ballad of Billy and Lilly“ und erzählt über 30 Minuten eine höchst merkwürdige, tiefschwarze Geschichte. Musikalisch scheint The last Hurrah!! dabei den tendenziell belanglosen Wohlfühlpop von Belle and Sebastian in Richtung Soundtrip verschieben zu wollen. Die – wesentlich kürzere – Schlussnummer heißt „Melodi Grand Prix 73“ und denkt Serge Gainsbourg und Antonio Carlos Jobim als Folk-Surf-Musik neu. Ein enigmatisches Album voller flirrender, schwebender Sounds, gemacht  von zwei verspäteten Blumenkindern, die den fröhlichen Wahnsinn in sich tragen und ihn deshalb nicht vor sich hertragen müssen. Beste, eleganteste Popmusik-Platte des Jahres, so weit.
Freistil (AT)

Auch in Norwegen gab es offenbar mal Hippies, die Bäume umarmten und nackt über Wiesen hopsten. Oriental Sunshine hatten 1970 mit ‚Mother Nature‘ einen entsprechenden Hit, den THE LAST HURRAY!! nun covern auf Spiritual Non-believers (RCD2109). Komplett mit klampfenden und wie Sitars sirrenden Buddhablumengitarren. Aber dann wird es erst wirklich kurios, mit ‚The Ballad of Billy and Lilly‘, einem halbstündigen Trip, der als Bluegrass à la O‘Death losrattert, aber fünf Minuten später schon mindestens drei Stilwechsel durchlaufen hat. War Heidi Goodbye anfangs Mother Nature‘s Milch & Honig-Tochter, so verwandelt sie sich nun als krähende Appalachengöre in eine Lilly, die in einer magical world viele Verwandlungen durchmacht. Für das halluzinatorisch-psychedelische Morphing sorgt HP - Hans Petter - Gundersen mindestens sechshändig, mit acoustic drone, slide und pedal steel guitars. Damit kurvt der ‚Pate der Popszene von Bergen‘, der hier seine Dronepopsymfoni-Ambitionen ganz unter einen Cowboyhut bringt, durch schräge Variationen von Country Folk, von Brian Woodbury über Byrds bis Sun City Girls, von ‚On the road again‘ bis zu deliranten Wirbeln mit gospelndem Chorus, dann auch mit Mundharmonika und sogar Trompete. My life is like a symphony and all my song they are in D. Heidi Goodbye stimmt für jede Episode einen treffenden Lilly-Ton an, wobei die balladesken Abenteuer kein Déjà-vu auslassen, freilich verbunden mit der Aufforderung, dass unsre slightly sleazy Lilly, die in a desperade way leben möchte, gefälligst nicht silly sein soll. Vergeblich, ihre tears tropfen in viele beers. Aber in der letzten rock‘n‘rollenden LillyLillyLilly-Zentrifuge mit versagender Euphoriebremse fliegen statt Tränen die Röcke und - gedankenspielerisch - die Kugeln. Heidi Goodbye rettet Lilly hinüber in ‚Melodi Grand Prix 63‘, einer wie von Ry Cooder ange-stimmten Samba, mit Geige und süßer Hawaiigitarre, Indizien für ein exotisches Exil, das Lilly gefunden hat. Der Tanz, den sie dort tanzt, drehwurmt über die Happy-End-Ausblende hinaus noch lange im Kopf weiter.
Bad Alchemy (DE)

Platen er lett å like dersom du har en svakhet for muterte toner som om de vokser direkte opp av jorden.... "Spiritual Non-Believers" er en Sareptas krukke av eventyrlig folkpop, beatlesk psykedelia, country, forrykt americana. Gitarterapi fra HP Gundersen.
Dagens Næringsliv (NO)

Drivkraften er den legendariske, bergenske trollmannen HP Gundersen, som her har skapt et lite mesterverk av en musikalsk roman. Lekent, flytende, lekkert og fylt med en egen velklang som verken er country, pop, folk, raga, blues, men rett og slett fullt av overskridende fantasi. Hva var det Gram Parsons drømte om? Cosmic American Music, ikke sant.
Dagbladet (NO)   (german)   (german)