Monday, 17 January 2011
They Play From Behind the Curtain
Reading this interview with Piper Kaplan, from Puro Instinct (via Pop Jukebox) (the only reason I know about her is because she is from the Ariel Pink constellation), I found out about the story of this amazing compilation, containing four Leningrad bands, that was the first ever presentation of the Russian punk in the West. Released in 1986, well into the Glasnost era, it still had to be smuggled. However some of her statements sound a bit naive ("I also think that Russia is really cool, because Russia is on the outside what America is on the inside. It's really seedy, and fucked up, and corrupt. It's like the innards are exposed. I like that. They’re proud of it, and wear it on their sleeve. I think that’s pretty cool. My idea of Russia is kind’ve this weird apocalypse, Troma version of America."), I think there's a lot to it, much more than Miss Kaplan can imagine.
When in the post on Pulp few days ago I was writing about the inability of Polish bands to fully emancipate from the influence of the West (at the same time being trapped within history, that made them either be journalistic, or completely nihilistic, and no wonder why - later will elaborate on this subject), the silent premise of those statements was that of course, there were nations that had it worse as far as social and political history goes and most definitely I feel that despite being exposed to this music & culture for years, my research on this matters barely started. There's a lot to be found out. But to better imagine this entrapment of the rock/punk bands under the Warsaw Pact, it is worth to imagine how it is to sing to a music invented by English-speaking lads. I guess that the fact now everybody sings in English, what wasn't the case 30 years ago, is a sign not only of the culture's globalisation and homogenisation, but speaks about the cultural limitations of the genre itself. I know it may sound funny after so many has happened to "rock" music we can't recognise it as a genre anymore, but the mediocrity of teh current "indie", this sort of stagnation in a form set decades ago & its selling well speaks volumes about the conservatism of the current era and proves either there's still a public space generated by music to take over or that we are in a state of a total, total bankrupcy. You decide. Or that, coming back to the linguistical thing, there are always two parallel 'scenes' in the countries: one of the English singing more or less West-copyists, and another, that still struggles with the real singing-songwriting, that occurs, I think, in your Muttersprache. (Writing in English, which scene's part should I feel?)
Some of the Punk on the other side of the Curtain story I mention in the review in the current Wire magazine where I reviewed much anticipated by me alternative history of Polish punk, Generacja by Michal Wasaznik & Robert Jarosz, telling how things were especially before the introduction of the Martial Law in 1981, which I heartily recommend to you. And if I ever said that there was no more than the system vs. the youth thing, that would be an unforgiven simplification. The quasi capitalist consumption at the end of the 1970s was in a full blow and the society obviously knew numerous ways how to obtain the desired goods or lifestyles, be it smuggled clothes, food or Western records. And definitely, from the late 1970s on, the communist system was so rotten, old, flaking off, being a parody of itself more than ever before, and if the economy is a joke and the reality you live in is a joke, what do you have to lose?
The story of how the West mingled/mirrored/copied the East and vice versa has a funny reflection in a story of a "rebelled" American female punk, who was so attracted by the Russian roughness & brutality, she went there, got together with the bands and released the 1st LP of their music on this side of the curtain, and had relationships with the members of the scene, which is a funny episode of the erotic relationship between USA & USSR. So as the new generations of American girls are seduced by the Communist Chic, we can only look forward to the fruits of this love.