Sunday, March 27, 2016

Гражданская Оборона - "Звездопад" [2002]

Artist: Гражданская Оборона
Title: Звездопад
Genre: Psychedelic Punk
Country: Russia
Release date: 2002

Track List:
  1. Песня Красноармейца
  2. Песня О Циркаче
  3. На Дальней Станции Сойду
  4. Шла Война
  5. Звездопад
  6. Ветер Северный
  7. Город Детства
  8. На Всю Оставшуюся Жизнь
  9. Слово - Товарищ
  10. Каравелла
  11. Белое Безмолвие
  12. Красный Конь
  13. Песенка Про Черную Гуашь И Надежду
  14. Солнце Взойдет
  15. Я Принял Решение
  16. Свой Среди Чужих
My blog would be incomplete without mentioning the most famous band in the Siberian punk scene, which was immensely influential to both punk and industrial/noise scenes in ex-USSR. Yes, I'm talking about Grazhdanskaya Oborona (the full name translates to "civil defense", and the shortened name, GrOb, means "coffin").

The band was founded on 8th November 1984 by Egor Letov and Konstantin Ryabinin on the ruins of Letov's earlier project Posev (aka Possev Verlag, founded in late 1982). Writing down their detailed history (and the history of numerous other projects associated with them) would take too much time and space, so I suggest you to research it by yourself, if you're interested. To put it in short: initially (in mid-1980s) they were playing raw and unpolished garage punk and post-punk, recording 10 full-length albums in just 2.5 years. In April 1987, they managed to take part in the 1st Siberian Rock festival in Novosibirsk. Their performance was very provocative by the standards of that time, and the organizers had to stop it after 25 minutes. Nevertheless, this incident made them famous over the whole country, and many people still call these 25 minutes "the finest hour" of Russian punk rock.

During 1988-90, they played a lot of live shows and recorded several more albums, but Egor Letov wasn't pleased with their popularity and fanbase (which, in general, was indeed horrible, like in the case with many other popular Russian rock bands of that time) and announced the band's break-up. In 1993, they've reunited again, but no new material was released until 1997. Their 1989-1990 recordings are characterized by being especially dissonant and noisy, close to 80's industrial and noise rock, and at times, even to primitive black metal like Ildjarn. Some critics consider these albums to be their best, but I personally prefer the period from 1997 to Letov's death in early 2008. GrOb's albums of that period are frequently called "psychedelic punk" due to strong influence of shoegaze and psychedelic rock, and more irrational and "trippy" lyrics. "Звездопад"/"Starfall" is very representative of that period, and I chose it for reviewing as one of the best albums in their whole discography.

"Starfall" is a collection of well-known old Soviet songs performed by Letov in his usual lo-fi noisy punk style. As usual, he couldn't sing properly (and he didn't pretend he could), but his vocals only add some "lo-fi" charm to the music. There's also some female vocals here and there, performed by his wife (now a widow) Natalia Chumakova. The sound is unpolished and fuzzy, but suprisingly melodic and nowhere near as harsh sounding as GrOb's early albums (I guess that's what is called "noise pop"). As for the choice of songs, I think Letov's intention was to cover both the most tragic-sounding songs he could find (mostly from the WWII era), and some of the more romantic ones as well. The title song was originally intended for the children, and I can guess that Letov has chosen it because he wanted to bring in the theme of children facing very mature political and ethical questions (a common theme in Soviet literature). The album artwork deserves a special mention, because Letov's decision to use the naive art of the Balkan school was great - these paintings reflect the surrealistic and "trippy" nature of the music very well:

Thanks to this album, I've discovered my new favourite painter - Ivan Generalic. Yeah, I know that the so-called "naive" or primitive art is mostly talentless shit, but it's certainly not the case with Generalic and his followers:

P.S. RIP Egor Letov. 10 September 1964 - 19 February 2008.

"And when I died,
There were no one,
who could deny that..." (E.Letov, early 1990s)

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