Laika & the Cosmonauts

  • Laika & the Cosmonauts
  • C'mon Do the Laika! (UK Dojo) 1988 
  • Surfs You Right (UK Dojo) 1990 
  • Instruments of Terror (Texicalli) 1993  (Upstart) 1994 
  • The Amazing Colossal Band (Upstart) 1995 
  • Zero Gravity (Upstart) 1996 
  • Absurdistan (Yep Roc) 1997 
  • Laika Sex Machine ... taped before a live audience (Yep Roc) 2001 
  • Local Warming (Yep Roc) 2004 
  • Cosmopolis (Yep Roc) 2008 
  • The Metropolis Tapes (online) (Yep Roc) 2008 

Laika and the Cosmonauts (bassist Tom Nyman, guitarist Mikko Lankinen, guitarist/organist Matti Pitsinki and drummer Janne Haavisto) are Finland’s entry into the global surf revival. With a rave review from Dick Dale on the back cover of Instruments of Terror (“Listening to Laika and the Cosmonauts’ new CD makes me feel that I’m standing toes over on that endless wave in the midst of a tropical sunset”), they gained mucho credibility for mostly original feel-good retro epics that combine the usual influences: Dale’s surf twang, ’60s spy flicks and TV themes, the Ventures and Tornadoes, Bernard Hermann soundtracks. Everything on the album is high-energy fun, but the group’s only stroke of true genius is “Psyko,” a medley of the themes from Psycho and Vertigo. The Amazing Colossal Band also has moments of charm — the moody twang of “The Downwinders” and the twang bar soul of “Aztec Two-Step” and “The A-Treatment” — but it’s not a good sign that the best moments are again soundtrack covers — “The Avengers” and John Barry’s “The Ipcress File.”

In ’96, Laika and the Cosmonauts were asked to contribute four tunes to the Flipper soundtrack. The group also released Zero Gravity, a compilation of its first two European albums, C’mon Do the Laika! and Surfs You Right, as a tie-in for an American tour. Highlights include a Johnny and the Hurricanes take on Dizzy Gillespie’s “Night in Tunisia,” “Surfs You Right” (a Dale-influenced stomp) and “Oahu Luau,” a faux Hawaiian cha-cha.

A decade before Russian-born novelist Gary Shteyngart popularized the made-up nation name by titling one of his books for it, Laika and the boys dubbed one of their albums Absurdistan. Points to the Finns.

The group dissolved itself in 2008, leaving behind a greatest hits (Cosmopolis) and a movie score The Metropolis Tapes.

[j. poet]