Tuesday, November 03, 2009

MUMIY TROLL’s “Paradise Ahead”- New EP, Live in SD

If you were a Russian, what would you do after seventy years of stifling Communist domination? Probably the same thing you’d do if you were a western European after fifteen hundred years of Catholic domination, you’d go a little bit crazy. That’s only natural. Still it’s nice to know that the sworn enemy we were once facing down and squaring off with in a little game called ‘Mutually Assured Destruction’ are in fact not only nice people, but… know how to party. The challenge is to channel all that newly unleashed energy into something creative… like Mumiy Troll. Now if you’re thinking that this is Gogol Bordello II, well… not exactly. These guys party, but not exactly like that. Whereas Gogol Bordello is essentially an act, an updated ‘village people’ if you will, this is legitimate rock-and-roll (Gogol B’s Eugene Hutz is a good actor btw; check out ‘Everything is Illuminated’). Eugene will get over his bitterness at not heading up a Putumayo ‘Russian Wedding Album.’ That’s a joke, and if you don’t ‘get it,’ then read his MySpace rant.

Mumiy Troll is the real thing, though, good ol’ fashioned R&R, Russian style. Appropriately enough, they’re from Vladivostok, surrounded on one side by China and the other side by… a view of Sarah Palin’s house, maybe? They’ve worked the clubs, too, not unusual at all to see their flyers decorating the light posts all over East Europe, especially in the CIS, where everybody still speaks Russian. Now, after years of working the old Warsaw Pact, they’re ready to take on the States, and they’ve got a new English-language EP to facilitate it. It’s called ‘Paradise Ahead’ and is full of their trademark eccentric rock. Beyond the silliness, though, lies some good story-telling and imagery, much of it documenting the hilarious horror of the Cold War, at least in metaphor if not in fact. The song ‘Nuclear Station’ is a good example of this, a metaphor for millenial love and romance- “It’s a whole new sensation, in our nuclear station. Only I know the secret to melt two hearts… chain reaction.”

Remember the Russian submarine incident? Listen to ‘Smog,’ i.e. smoke, “cold and dark underwater, I’m feeling drunk, it’s getting hotter… once more chance to kiss my sweet baby daughter.” They can also get semi-philosophical, as in ‘Mothers and Daughters’ about the futility of war and human plans in general- “go through this world in peace, where oceans rage and roar, lighting darkness with our dreams, we still can’t see the shore.” And of course sometimes they can be just plain silly, as in ‘Polar Bear’-“… you polar bear, me Eskimo.” The title song probably sums it up best- “you gotta’ like it… this planet is fun, yeah.”

The live show is even better. I saw them do a one-hour set last night at The Casbah in San Diego and it was… f***ing great. They opened with ‘Nuclear Station’ alternating in Russian and English, and took it from there. Most of the set, in fact, was in Russian, and if that seems strange, you have to consider that the entire Russian ex-pat community (under 40) was probably there. How do I know that? Did I check ID’s? No, but the fact that the audience could sing along to nearly every song was a clue, that and the fact that they presented the band with flowers. That’s not normal. There were plenty of blondes and their green-card husbands in the crowd, too, some with word bubbles over their heads reading, “What the fu…” Real live Russian girls! How often do you get that at your local club?

Frontman Ilya Lagutenko, in addition to being a good vocalist, is a natural-born showman, though more of the cutesy cuddly silly kind than one of Gogol’s dead souls re-born (imagine Dana carvey fronting a band). The band is no-nonsense, though, kicking ass at speeds sometimes approaching warp. I was afraid someone might lose it (his mind, that is). It was impossible to sit still, and surveillance footage showed that even Hardie K’s feet both left the floor simultaneously more than once, and that doesn’t happen every day, I’m tellin’ you, son… Alas, it all ended too soon, and without an encore, boo hoo. I intended to stay up and watch them on Craig Ferguson for that, but… you know, zzzzzz…… Forget the PR rap about the ‘Russian Rolling Stones.’ I’d say… maybe… Talking Heads? Check ‘em out.

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