Esa Linna began his recording career as bassist with the Finnish pop punk band Time Flies in the 90s before moving on to a grungier direction with the relatively short-lived 86 Yourself. In 2012, as well as being a member of the Finnish language band Itämaa, he released ‘She’s Not a Human Being’, his first solo single and EP of the same name.
Power pop enthusiasts will be keen to note that for the title track, Linna enlists the help of a cult hero: one-time member of Jellyfish, Mr Roger Joseph Manning Jr, steps in to lend a hand on keyboards and backing vocals. That lead track is certainly the EP’s strongest offering; the guitars are sharp and the backing vocal harmonies are lovely, as Esa and his band (also featuring Itämaa bandmate Seppo Pohljolainen on drums) power through a well-structured pop-rock tune. Manning contributes a world of swirling organ fills during the second half, which definitely strengthens the overall arrangement.
’20,000’ days slows things down a little, presenting a wall of chiming guitars. A mid-paced approach recalls the works of Big Star and Belshill’s finest Teenage Fanclub, which, for many, will be a very welcome sound. Like the opening track, it’s all musically solid, but it’s as this track progresses, the weakest link becomes more obvious… While Linna is a reasonable songwriter and a great arranger, he’s not always a great singer. His voice is a little flat throughout, which, when applied to this kind of classic sounding pop/rock, just weighs everything down a little. Looking past that, the guitars hold their own throughout, while the tinkling pianos are a welcome addition. The softer ‘Piece of Me’ relies more on a semi-acoustic arrangement, and here, the vocals seem far more suited to the music. On the occasions the lead vocals wobble, they’re bolstered by cleaner harmony vocals to give things a bit more of that necessary lift. While vocals aren’t necessarily Linna’s strong point, it should be noted that he’s a handy man to have around if you need instruments played on your own release: on this track, he’s a veritable one man band, playing bass, guitar, mandolin, banjo, cello, keyboards and percussion instruments!
Just when you feel you’ve got this EP’s pop/rock sound and influences sussed, Esa throws a massive curve-ball. A curve-ball so wide, in fact, it could end all proverbial curve-balls. Closing this EP, the rather ugly ‘Meat Market’ attacks the listener with treated vocals, harsh electronic sounds and meaty beats. If you can make it past all that – and Esa’s throwaway claims of “here at the meat market, we’ve got some low prices” – there are some crisp, ringing guitars at play, but they’re often second fiddle to everything else. ‘Meat Market’ may (or may not) represent a reasonable slice of electronica, but if you came here for pop/power pop, it’s not going to float your boat, whether or not it’s intended as a humorous afterthought. It’s likely that Esa doesn’t care whether people like this track of course, he’s already got Roger Manning Jr on board elsewhere, so that’s always going to be a relatively big draw.
So, then, the ‘She’s Not A Human Being EP’ is a bit of a mish-mash; a release that paves the way to bigger, more interesting musical experiments. As a standalone release, it is, perhaps, best viewed as a curio. A curio featuring a one-time member of the legendary Jellyfish, but a curio nonetheless.