Thursday, 20 January 2011
Bless the Soviet Hipsters!/Perils of Europop
[picture above: Savage Progress, a pop group in the 1980s formed in Kenton, England which had hits in Germany, Austria and Switzerland]
Just been reading a review of a 1986 Neu! release by Mark K-Punk in the Wire few issues ago, where he's complaining about its untimeliness in general, comparing some of it to the "Europop British tourists will bring from their Mediterranean vacation". I was thinking about this phenomenon of Europop in relation to my previous musings, it is after all a product of certain kind of Eurovision culture, European Union, post-war thing, from ABBA to Dana International (I love them both), but also elading to lots of very, very bad music, and funny it evolved into this semi-universal code of extremely trashy & kitschy soft-porn show.
Meanwhile, I have fans of my new music approach, got a letter from the author of this lovely Europop blog. my atemopt on the analysis of the Eurovision culture grows in my mind nevertheless and hopefully will take its shape here soon.
Also, got more into the Altered Zones website, which is very succesfully hiding the fact it is by kids of the Pitchfork era & owned by Pitchfork.
here Simon Reynolds muses on the Altered Zones generation, whose flag music is chillwave, all sort of generated by Ariel Pink and lo-fi, witches-in-the-forest esthetics, wonder what is the link between this & dubstep and hauntology.
but Im absolutely captivated by this clip to the Rangers, from their album Suburban Tours (sic!) showing that love for "undead social projets of Modernism" have, unnoticed, become some kind of underground mainstream & the question is whether there really is something to it more than a passing fashion, and what does it signify culturally. It's telling, that girls and boys on both sides of the Atlantic somehow think wandering around empty, derelict tower blocks is the most hip thing to do and we can only speculate who's responsible for that! Crisis had its role in it, no doubt.
Also, investigated a bit Puro Instinct and the word "Stilyagi", which she used in a song I posted, and it turned out Miss Kaplan & other chillwavers really thought this all thoroughly out. Stilyagi were Russian, or rather Soviet youth fascinated by the West, culturally, visually, what expressed in their style of clothing, musci etc...the very precursors of the hipsters, one may say.
And there's also this relatively fresh feature film on Stilyagi, called, in translation, simply - Hipsters! frocks, songs, atmosphere. There's a direct link between the Soviet youth from the 1920, 30s, 1950s & 1980s...
Also, this is so much exactly what one needs in the grim season, when the day ends at 4pm, account is empty, internet works sporadically and the general feeling of the End-of-the-World is crawling on us.
As far as the Stilyagi-cum-punk goes, there was a whole wave of those bands, the most colorful being Bravo.
Bravo was created on the wave of teh Stilyaga culture revival, some kind of Easternized beats combined with Mods & hipsters (dwelling on real 50s hipsetrs and anticipating the later revival in the 00s as well), but to me they look more like post-punky rockabilly'ists. either way, isnt that gorgeous? they were fascinated by the Western culture, but it was coming to them already in its distorted, a bit caricaturized form. there the John Peel thesis ("strange things happen to pop in isolation") would be actually true - trying to mime the West Russians or demo-peoples in general were creating something rich and strange (hoep to show some more Polish examples soon). It also shows the beginnings of the Retro Culture in full spread - all those big beat & early rock'n'roll revivals, (followed by the neverending festival of the 80s that lasts alreday longer than the decade itself), signs of a derivative, self-eating, nostalgic culture we have now up to its caricatiral form. There it has started, in the 80s, or, more possibly, when "the history ended" in 1989, as Fukuyama put it, after the collapse of communism/The Wall, so greatly described in Joshua Clover's fantastic 1989: Bob Dylan Didn't Have This to Sign About. It also brings to mind so many 80s UK bands built on a similar spur: Madness, The Specials, taking Mod or 50s culture, its climat & iconography, into a new space.
At the beginning Bravo had an amazing Zhanna Aguzarova (she has a massively detailed Russian Wikipedia entry, must be a cult figure there) on the vocals, who was later expelled by the official authorities (!!!) and replaced by a geezer, to the rest of the band's fearful acceptance. Then they stopped being in "underground" anymore & turned into a very conventional pop/rock band. In their early days they remind me of Polish Maanam, which should be the next on my focus here. Which will in general become: the growth of new wave, 80's synth-pop and some disco 70's mainly Eastern bands as a social movement? we shall see.