Stuffography Boris Grebenshikov and Deadushki

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Борис Гребенщиков и Deadушки

Boris Grebenshikov and Deadushki

FeeLee 1998


Review

by Dzhubchik, Maik, Dzhrew

Our own Dzhubchik dons her disko-devushka disguise and pens the following review:

Overall, I sympathize with BG's need to experiment, and his loathing of self-repetition. He has a hard act to follow by just being himself. So trying to be the next Russian Trent Reznor, given his personality, isn't so bizarre—and you sort of have to admire the attempt. Bob Dylan's fans don't have to fear the spectre of him teaming up with the Beastie Boys to rap "Tangled Up in Blue." But Grebenschikov's fans are always having their devotion tried, as if he won't rest until he's rid of them all. This album seems to be doing the trick.

Now as for the songs...Many of the mixes are wisely chosen from December's Children, that hard-driving, early-80s angst-album. On the first song Deadushki + BG basically do Ashes just like the original Taboo freak-out. Only with more things banging.

Snake: It sounded funny the first time. Now, stuck to a mechanical beat, it sounds inane. It's hard to laugh when you're thrashing that synthetic cage with a synthetic chain all the time. And worrying about breaking one of those nine-inch nails.

Knife Cutting Water: I don't know the original version, but this one is pretty atrocious. Lots of beeping, along with that apathetic house-thrash. Here is the place to point out that in many of these songs, BG sounds like he's trying to blend in as Mr. Harsh Narko-man, but his voice has too much subtle expression to work in such a context. It takes a total robot or a total diva to rise above (or below) the industrial-strength whiplash of this backbeat.

Aristocrat: I kind of like this one. BG just gives up on pretension here and gets silly, as he takes on the air of an "aristocrat." There's a bizarre tribute to Elvis from Hong Kong (in English) at the end, which I assume is sampled from somewhere.

Tonight: Another Red Wave hit, a big anxiety number, augmented in this version with psycho-bells and narko-munchkin chorus. BG sings much like in the original, only in this version, by the time he gets home to find his house has become a museum, you're so anaesthetized by the relentless beat, you could care less. KGB, take me away!

Wonderful Dilettante: Don't know the original. This version starts in synth reminiscent of Journey, and BG is all breathy. I couldn't stand to listen to the rest to find out what the drama was about.

Dreams of Something Greater: If there hadn't been a much-better original version, irreversably reminding Russians of those slightly hopeful Gorbachev years, and if this version had a Russian pseudo-Ninah Cherry singing instead of BG, then this could be the big hit of the album. But it's just a cheap disco dream of something bigger, something that already happened.

Babylon: Finally, the album's saving grace. The beat is super-funky, the song starts off with some French-African recitation, and BG is finally in the groove. Yo, this town is Babylon! Wack! All that and a bag of chips! Happy, zippy syntho bubbles burst above a skanky reggae beat, etc. If Deadushki and дедушка could try again in this mode, with the music and singer in genuine, not bogus, harmony, then the experiment, I declare, would be a success. beep! beep!


Reclamation Specialist Maik, "just to be a contentious bastard," counters:

Back in May, mimoza brought me up a nice фирменный copy of BG and Deadushki...I had it on lousy cassette, liked it, wanted more...

I listened to it a few times after that; it's great for a certain mood. Then suddenly, over the last week or so, it's really kicked in. I think its version of "Ashes" is the best there is—it realizes everything the Taboo version promised. But whereas the Taboo version comes off as grating and claustrophobic (due more to technological limitations than artistic content I'm almost certain), the Deadushki version jacks it up to a seamless wall of sound, completely true to the original, while fully realizing the potential an ear used to Western production could only guess was hidden in there...

"Dreams of Something Bigger" is the other winner at this time... once again, the wanna-be 80's sound of the original was tethered down by the crappy recording technology. The original is pretty, but a relic of its era, mainly valued as a memory by those who felt it when they were young and were living every word of it.

The Deadushki version is fresh and transcendent...uplifting ...if I could have only one version, this would be it. It is gorgeous, and the extended rave interlude midway through gives the song an incredible lift and energy.

The other songs are still working on me...

BG's new vocals on the disc are excellent, though there is a distinctive note of—dare I say "ironic detachment"?—which, I guess, is what deconstruction requires. BG told me back in '98 that Deadushki was an attempt to liberate his music from the sentimental memory vaults of his listeners' pasts, and to reclaim it as his own. I think I'm finally beginning to understand what he meant, and how savvy he was in selecting the tunes.

It's just like Page & Plant with their "Unledded" reunion, accompanied by a traditional Moroccan orchestra, which could have been a debacle, but they chose the perfect songs from the Zeppelin catalog to recreate past masterpieces as modern masterpieces (listen to "Kashmir" on '94's No Quarter, if you don't believe me). What more could we ask of our rock 'n' roll geniuses?


Meanwhile, Dzhrew is one of THE FEW, THE PROUD, THE CONFUSED to have actually seen BG + Deadushki live. His impressions, minus, regrettably, the promised BG + Skull photo:

I just got back from one of the stranger concerts I've ever attended. Maybe it was the strangest concert I've ever attended. I still haven't quite processed what occurred. This isn't going to be my finest prose. Forgive.

The posters advertised "Boris Grebenschikov, Deadushki." Down at the bottom it said there would be special guests, "Tequilajazzz." So I go to the show expecting Deadushki playing before BG, sort of a split-headliner thing. I only realized that Tjzzz was playing a few days ago—I don't think they were originally on the bill when I first looked at the posters, and I'd stopped actually reading them by the time TJzzz was added. Their "special guest" status leads me to believe they'll join BG sometime during his set, and play some of the songs they recorded together this spring.

After the complete мозгоёбство that is called trying for 1.5 hours to pick up a photographer badge, I decide to just use my ticket and maybe snap a few pictures from my seat. Fuck it. "It's a concert, I'll just go and enjoy it."

I get in, and of course the гардероб is full. And my seat is already taken. So I will have to wear my winter coat as I battle the babushkas and cops the whole night to stand off to the side (much closer than my original seat, btw). So I roast there. As soon as I find a spot to call my own, Tequilajazzz starts a solo set.

I immediately revise my expectations. "They are opening the double bill." After three of their own songs, BG stumbles out on to the stage wearing shiny jeans, boots of some sort (not BG boots, though), and a red shirt (tucked-in) with a 70s collar. He also has a belt with studs (rhinestones?—I'll have to look at the pictures). I immediately recognize the song they start as the one I have on my tape. It is received by the crowd no better or worse than any other song the whole night.

The crowd. Right. The orchestra pit is filled with the people who paid the most. They tend to jump around and clap their hands over their heads the whole night. They are the only ones who scream continuously. They are all young. The main seating area is a mix of geezers, bearded flautists, middle-aged people in berets, hippy-haired, portly computer-programmer types, typical scowling young couples, skinny people, and families with children. They all sit, the whole concert. A few isolated pairs scream a few isolated times, and a few isolated pairs wave their arms in the air sometimes. I fail to observe the first balcony. The second balcony I know is populated by people who paid nothing to get in—the crowds of people who pushed and shoved at the administrator's window (picking up their cheapskate buddy-buddy tickets) while I tried in vain to pick up my ID badge. "To hell with them all," I think, as I notice them.

So BG and TJzzz play a few songs from the spring recording session, then BG clumsily leaves. They didn't rehearse the stage patter. The rehearsed the hell out of the songs, though. The songs rock hard. And BG seems in his element, despite his age (read on). He is Russkii Rocker Boy (albeit a bit chunky, with his shirt on the whole time), bopping his head at the right time, pointing at Duser right before a killer fill or rhythm change, and screaming as madly as Fyodorov during the mad chorus duets. One of the songs has a midi-xylophone solo played by Kostya on his guitar—I'm wondering where the xylophone is coming from. BG is BG, even with TJzzz.

So right, BG leaves with his clumsy "Tequilajazzz!", bow, blown kiss to the crowd, and is gone before Fyodorov manages a "Boris Grebenschikov!" And the band kicks into a groove I immediately recognize as a BG song. It's their own sound, mind you, and I still haven't figured out which song it is, when some girl next to me says "Êëàññ." My lingham shrinks a bit at the thought that this youngster is better-listened than I. Then it swells back to life when Fyodorov starts to sing "Лебединая сталь" and she mutters, "Oh—this is a Grebenshikov song."

Then TJzzz leaves, Grebenshikov runs across the stage and yells into a half-dead microphone, "Welcome Deadushki!" Then the stage hands set things up for a few minutes and the enthusiasm of the BG run-by wears off. But my theory is standing. Now comes a 45-minute set of Deadushki, then BG will work his magic.

I'm guessing many of you have never heard Deadushki so I'll try to describe the act a bit. Very high energy. Live drums that are miked to sound like loops (the bass drum sounds exactly like the typical drum machine bass drum, and may in fact be a machine sometimes). They have a DJ, scratching away and pointing to-and-fro as he grooves to the grooves. There's a guitarist who also pokes at a keyboard sometimes. And there's the singer, who constantly pokes at a 1980s-looking computer, three (?) keyboards in a stack, and sometimes bangs very hard on a real bass. Everyone jumps around quite insanely, especially the ones who are poking at keyboards. And the singer occasionally comes out from behind his junk to run around like a madman and sing.

Their music has sorta Nine Inch Nails meets Chemical Brothers feel to it. I don't even try to pay attention to what the dude sings, but I imagine it's pretty far from Reznor wanting to fuck me like an animal. But the music is loud, noisy, electric and electronic mayhem.

They open with "Salome." I can't believe I remember the name of this song. Whatever. Then they break into another of their songs, and at the end I spy BG, practically sneaking onto the stage. He looks like he's forgotten something, and he ducks behind a center-stage podium/church organ thing that's been covered with a cloth, and bears some pentagrammical symbol on the front. He rises from behind his podium, and it sinks in. "He's going to play with Deadushki."

Boom. And now he's playing with Deadushki. He's singing an Akvarium song (I am too stunned to notice which), standing behind his podium, and occasionally hitting out a wawawahing Hammond chord. The scratcher is scratching. The guitar is screaming, the keyboards are filling any gaps in with various noises, and the constant plodding dance club bass drum thuds along. The music is amazing, I really like it. I close my eyes and the groove finds a nerve. I'm bopping around, my leg moving on its own, ostensibly to the rhythm. Then I open my eyes, see a stage full of energy, with a complete dork in the middle of the action.

A complete dork. An utter, complete dork. If any of you saw the film Austin Powers [Could we very well have avoided seeing it? We might've if we could've. -Dzhon] [So how was I supposed to know? - Dzhrew] there's a part where a Blofeld type character, Dr. Evil, who's been revitalized after 30 years in cryogenic freeze, meets his young son for the first time and tries to show that he's "hip" by dancing the most frigid, not-even-close-enough-to-be-bad Macarena ever performed by man. It's quite funny. And there's BG, snapping his fingers,swaying back and forth, making Krishna waves with outstretched arms...looking like a dork, way out of his element. Simply pathetic. It's quite funny.

He nudzhes. That's the only way I can describe his interactions with the other musicians on stage. He's a nudge. He pokes at the keyboards, he mimics the way the other singer cups his hands around the mic and sings (it sounds lame when BG does it). He looks insecurely at the others. During one song, he sits on the floor like Michael Stipe during the Murmur era, sullenly singing. In one song, he disapperas behind his podium and produces a human skull. He sings to the skull during the song (I have pictures—they'll be quite funny)—it's like Greg Brady imitating Bob Dylan trying to act in Hamlet.

The music, I reiterate, is totally продвинутый and cool. But the stage show is a comedy. The song that comes across the most acceptably is "Babylon." It is nice to be in a hall on Петроградской, just spitting distance Ivanov's communal hallway, while Boris sings about Babylon. But I don't think there are many in the crowd who feel the transcendency of the moment as I do. One of the scowling couples finally leaves. Some guy off the side screams Akvarium song names between every song. "Рок-н-ролл мёртв, а я ещё нет!" He also urges BG to sing a few songs alone. Not going to happen. People clap politely, but it's not we're-overwhelmed-at-the-spectacle, thanks-for-the-music clapping. There will be no masses cheering for an encore.

A great moment is the long introduction to some song. Boris has hidden behind his podium, while the scratcher scratches up some madness. It goes on forever, and I have to admit I forget BG is even in the house. Then the scratches begin to have some higher meaning, and I realize just about a half-nanosecond before he starts singing that this song is "Snake." Boris hides behind his podium the whole time, doing lame little snake hand puppet things for our entertainment, and occasionally popping his head up to hiss. He rattles a few times.

There is no encore. But a lot of people refuse to leave. The isolated people who "get it" (or are as stunned as I am) mill around, many clapping and cheering for about 5 minutes, before the babushkas shoo us all out.