With this album we cross an exciting new frontier. It is entirely inadequate to categorize this album "Do Not Buy This"; properly, this album should be designated "Seek and Destroy All Extant Copies," a new millennium Grail-quest for the true Bodhisattva.
It is shockingly, unbelievably, awful: a disgrace. What the expression on BG's face might have been when first confronted with this "tribute" is difficult to conceive, but I imagine it akin to those seen on Fear Factor just before Boobus americanus is forced to swallow the pureed pig's liver or live Madagascar hissing cockroach. Not since Water Rhapsody have we been confronted with such a reeking pile of fly-blown camel dung passing itself off as music.
It would be disingenuous to suggest that this is entirely unexpected: good "tribute albums" are fewer and farther between than settlements in the Chukotskii AO. Still, the perfidy of Andrei Tropillo, the prime mover of this mess, takes one aback. The former Hero Producer of such essential early Akvarium opera as Taboo and Triangle has forfeited a lifetime's worth of glorious karma, and must now, alas, be classified an Enemy of the People.
Sure, the project started innocently enough: an on-line cattle-call for BG covers to celebrate BG's big Five-O. This sounded like a lark, and several Bodhisattvas are known to have participated in a spirit of merry abandon. Where Tropillo crossed the line was in taking the wildly unsuccessful results of this solicitation, inviting selected participants to perform their tortured manglings of Grebenschikov live, and releasing the stomach-churning results as actual cds (not one, but two!), for which people are expected to pay actual money. (This disc, Heaven [sic] comprises "studio" renditions; the other disc, Earth is supposed to be live takes of folks who participated in the concert.) The upshot ought to be called Проклятые Дилетанты, and is definitely not for the faint-of-heart.
To be perfectly fair, however, I should note that it's not 100% a travesty, only 85% of one. Let us briefly sing the praises of the handful contributors who managed not to embarrass themselves: Neizvestnaya Zemlya contribute a rockin', supremely crunchy version of "Protect Your Prick" that is arguably as good as the original; Yevgeny Guzeev coughs up an entirely credible, if unexciting, rendition of "Three Sisters"; Billy Band's take on "Train on Fire"—while bearing no earthly resemblance to the song as we know it—is at least diverting in allowing us to imagine what the song would have sounded like placed in the context of Tom Waits' Swordfishtrombones; Alexei Khvostenko croaks out his usual excruciating, wildly off-key rendition of "The City"—but it's actually his damn song, not Boris', so he's fully entitled.
The rest of the tracks fall broadly into four categories:
Pastiche: For a song to truly be a "cover-version," it has to retain at least something of the original melody; otherwise it's nothing more than a send-up. Now there's nothing wrong with pastiche, per se—it can be a lot of fun—but it has little place on a "tribute album." What could be less of a tribute than seeing your music chucked out the window in favor of mindless thrash-punk power-chords? And that's precisely what most of these pastiches are: Sid Vicious doing "My Way," only with less ?lan. Screaming BG lyrics over random guitar noise does not a Grebenschikov cover make. Even feebler are a couple cheeseball attempts at hip-hopifying BG lyrics. (Ack! Pass the tainted vodka!) One can forgive one pastiche—and I have, the Waitsian "Train on Fire" above—but not half a dozen. Tracks falling into this category: 2, 4, 8, 11, 14, 19, 24
Bad Mid-Period Alla Pugachova Wanna-Be's: This is self-explanatory…and like fingernails on a chalkboard. Tracks falling into this category: 5, 6, 9, 12
The Olle Romo Memorial Band Not pastiche, as defined above, but nevertheless stunningly unsuccessful attempts at injecting other genres (chiefly ska, some electronica) into familiar Akvarium tunes: 7, 13, 16, 20, 21, 25, 26
Simon Says...: These folks actually appear to be trying, but only achieve the sort of third-rate Karaoke familiar to viewers of American Idol: 15, 17, 18, 23
"Abomination" is not too strong a word for this disaster: some suitable punishment will have to be devised for Tropillo for having unleashed it upon the record-buying public. An entire winter in Noril'sk, locked in a small, underheated room, forced to listen to Barry Manilow Live on infinite repeat, should do the trick...