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Our Life as Seen by Trees

2010


Review

by Dzhon

Not to beat around the overgrown bush, this represents BG's second revisionist meddling in Akvarium's actual history (following Feudalism) inventing an album where, inconveniently—due to a variety of factors, not least of which was lack of access to a recording studio—none has heretofore existed.

But do we really need this? BG seems bent on eradicating the anthology albums of the early 90s from the collective Bodhisatva memory; but—as Iosef Vissarionovich could now tell you—revisionism rarely succeeds in the long term, whatever pains you might take in the КПСС propaganda department, or at home with Audacity or similar software. This may seem inconsistent, given that I'm already on record extolling the great virtues of Feudalism, but I wonder why BG has bothered this time around.

It's not that the songs aren't generally good. "When the Pain Passes" is a stone-cold classic, one of the best songs in the bazillion-song oeuvre, and "Captain Voronin," "Grey Stones..." and "Worker Bee" are long-time faves of mine. But unlike the spit-and-polish that seems to have gone into Feudalism, several of the cuts on Our Life... are very rough. Particularly disappointing are the choppy live versions of "Captain Voronin" (a better studio version of which is found on Black Rose, and a better live version on Letters of Captain Voronin) and a similarly squeaky "They're Selling Us" (presumably the best they could find of this seldom-performed song). The major selling point, of course, is to have excavated versions of the songs as performed by the original band members back in the day, and for some this fact alone will lend them great karmic merit; from where I sit (under my religious ficus) it's just not that big a deal.

A few comments on some of the other tracks. "The World As We Knew It," previously widely available only on the un-BG-sanctioned Made at Mosfilm collection, is an ominous precursor of many annoying Caribbean-flavored piffles to come. It's eminently miss-able. In contrast, the long version of "Boy," with a crazy violin solo soaring over Gakkel's rumbling cello, is actually an improvement on the more subdued version found on Cabinet of Curiosities. "General Skobelyov" also benefits from Andrei Reshetin's violin work, providing a different twist on the more familiar accordion-driven version on Letters of Captain Voronin. "Hunting for Unicorns" sounds basically the same as the version on Archive; with its overwrought orchestral background and bridge, it's not a song I've ever cared very much for.

I agree with Mr. Hell that the songs do form a stylistically and thematically consistent album, but for me the upshot is an album that's worthy, but hardly a must-have, especially if you already do have the songs. (Again, the Bodhisattvas have had the songs for decades.) The trees have spoken.