Stuffography Interchords

Missing

Interchords

1989


Review

by Dzhubchik

What we have here is an insta-feature—Boris talks about rock, Russian, and wretched Soviet life, and in between we have three songs: "Postcard," "Radio Silence," and "Young Lions" (Молодые Льви—in Russian, but sounding quite of a piece with the rest). I'm guessing that one idea behind Interchords was that toiling radio producers from Nebraska to Maine could mix 'n' match the material herein (although they'd probably want it on magnetic tape, to be honest), thus getting their profiles done in advance of the actuality Boris getting to their towns. Said idea is enough to make me wince and/or cringe. So I hope it's wrong, but anyway, it shouldn't turn us against what is still an interesting artifact.

A small sticker on the back of Interchords' black sleeve promises to tell us “All About Boris Grebenshikov”—first and foremost, how many albums the man can sell. “To date, Aquarium have sold over three million units and Boris Grebenshikov is widely regarded as the poet laureate of his generation.” This PR niblet concludes, “…Radio Silence flows like a concept record and Boris delivers contemporary rock 'n' roll that transcends the borders around the world today.”

The album starts off with a little King Arthur flutish intro. In the first of four one-sided “Conversations,” Boris talks about hearing “that Sound—with a capital ‘S'” of rock music in the streets. “It was like an alien army invading,” he says, “I knew that I was one of them!” Furthermore, наш геро says he's never lost that feeling of “pure joy” in creating rock-n-roll.

Then comes a long plug for Perestroika, Gorbachev, and rebuilding the spirit of Russia, which BG says is seriously broken. Sadly, he says, “I see how incredible all the people I know could be if it weren't for this lack of self-confidence,” which he blames on Stalin's legacy. “There is still a lot of fear in me,” he goes on. “I hope it will dissipate but probably in some dark corner there's something lurking…I don't know. I hope to kill the bastard.” Question for Borya: Did you?

Then we have to listen to “The Postcard.”

In Conversation II, Boris explains the difference between official and unofficial bands in the Soviet Union, and then waxes mightily on his admiration for Dave Stewart (who just so happens to be the producer of this album). “He plays a lot of things that wouldn't be out of place on an Aquarium album,” quoth BG, “acoustic guitar and Medieval stuff, things I love.”

Then we are told about the genesis of the song “Radio Silence,” written in Leningrad about (oddly enough) the ways people are bombarded with too much information. Slightly nipping the hand that feeds him, Boris says, “Maybe it's wise to turn off the radio and stay with yourself, or just with other people.”

This particular listener takes his advice to heart and lifts the needle at the onset of the next song.

Side B offers two more monologue “conversations.” In the first and most interesting one, Boris complains about the state of Russian rock in the 1960s, when, he says, everyone sang English-language imitations of Western rock and “when they tried to sing in Russian, it was just empty words, worse than Tin Pan Alley.” He talks about hearing John Lennon's post-Beatles solo album, singing the lyrics, “God is a concept by which we measure our pain.” You can't imitate heady thoughts like that, Boris rightly decides, you have to create equivalent songs in your own language.

“And so I took this burden on myself, and started thinking about how to create Russian rock-n-roll” Boris says, there being no other Russian rock-poets around to say, Ты чё, Borya, stuff a sock in it.

Then Grebenshikov goes on a long riff on the difference between rockin' in Russian versus English. For instance, he says, there's no Russian equivalent of “rock me babe” (at least not yet). And he scoffs at those who would have him simply translate his Russian hits into English and sing them. “The texture of the words, and they way they interact is entirely different,” he says (having yet to hear the twisted beauty of “Hotel Bar Eater” and other marvels of the Bodhisattva's own Ivanov Beatles genre).

Radio Silence, Boris maintains, is not an American album, and not a Russian album, but something entirely different. A Russian trying to make an American album, perhaps? Just a hunch.

After a needle-lifting romp through “Young Lions,” we are back for our final conversation, this time about the suckiness of Soviet radio and how no one listens to its collective farm reports (hence, no need to turn it off, thus disproving the intended audience for Radio Silence). In a true moment of DJ-buttering, Boris talks about how great it would be to have the equivalent of college radio in his homeland. “But I can't see anything like that happening,” he adds, unprophetically. A reprise of the King Arthur flute comes along, telling us this is end.

“Rock-n-roll,” Boris says, “is still outlawed.”

Конец . That was fun. Thank you, e-Bay and especially, The Future.


Musicians

Boris Grebenshikov