Mstation Pop etc Commentary, Reviews Valid RSS pre Dec 04 reviews are here

Sat, 03 Feb 2007

Guns and Lollipops

One of the strands to do with Eastern European bands was that it used to be physically dangerous, even life-threatening, to just get up and play some rock music. While the officially sanctioned bands played a mixture of sacharine love songs and over-blown pomp rock, the others ranged as wide as the imagination would go. Quite often they weren't overtly political but their view of life went to somewhere else - dadaesque, art-punk, grind groove, and sometimes accompanied by grainy Super 8 footage cut to be art rather than a record.

Quite often though, it wasn't so much the content of the concert that counted, it was the fact that the concert took place at all. Both the musicians and the concert goers were brave to an extent that is quite humbling for a Western musician - OK, if you wipped out your willy like Jim Morrison did in Miami, you could expect some hassle in some parts but of a different order of magnitude entirely. Being disappeared and tortured or killed wasn't and isn't on the menu. We're talking about music here, not George Bush, his ugly henchmen, and their foes.

Maybe we might have expected those bands to be so out-there as to be from another planet, freed as they were from ordinary commercial constraints, and, just as in the West, there were some. But mostly the whole point of the thing was to play Western-style rock music because it was that that was censored and forbidden - information wants to be free!

Now things are mostly completely different although there is a different form of censorship at work - economic necessity. In the old days pretty much everyone was guaranteed the basic necessities of life and there was time to make music. Now, frequently there's not. That, and the general order of things have led, at the least, to a certain nostalogy, and a wish that the thieving scum who steal the very roads from the people will be dealt with in a particularly nasty way.

It's a long way from there to here, even if the macro-view inclined might say 'same as it ever was!' with power concentrated in a few hands and a great disparity between rich and poor (which is beginning to describe some countries in the west quite well) but music is part of the detail and that detail is rich with imagination and skill... proto-punks might say there's too much of that and that the construction can outweigh the message. Sometimes - for sure. It wasn't unknown that conservatory trained musicians would (sort of) rock out as an act of rebellion.

From the Plastic People to Lollipops! The Plastic People played in the Czech republic in the old days and organised quite large concerts which were treated like ... raves in modern Britain! ... except more so. There are various tracks around. Or you could go and see Groma and his group Eternal Rest play their sophisticated music with an occasional tinge of Industrialism in Sevastopol. This stuff is great for people who absolutely must be listening to things that no-one else has heard of. Or, somewhat more easily you can check out a label like lollipopshop which specialises in Eastern European music and has a fair proportion of Polish acts. Run by Henning Kupper in Berlin, this is an indy label par excellence - an expert guy who wants to get good stuff out there where people can hear it. Sending money his way doesn't pay for PR droids or private jets: it pays for more of the same, food on the able and a few beers at the cafe. The sort of band names you might come across are Magic Carpathians Project, Oranzada, Volga, NU, Korae Orom, Uzgin Over, Trottel Monodream, and many more. (thunderfinger)

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