Grazhdanskaya Oborona

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Totalitarizm (1987), 6.5/10
Myshelovka (1987), 6.5/10
Zdorovo I Vechno (1989), 7/10
Toshnota (1989), 5/10
Pesni Radosti i Schast'ya (1989), 5/10
Armageddon-popsVoyna (1989), 5/10
Russkoe Pole Eksperimentov (1989), 6.5/10
Instruktsiya po Vyzhivaniyu (1990), 5/10
Egor I Opizdenevshie: Pryg-Skok (1990), 6.5/10
Egor I Opizdenevshie: Sto Let Odinochestva (1993), 6/10
Solntsevorot (1997), 6.5/10
Nevynosimaya Lyogkost' Bytiya (1997), 6/10
Zvezdopad (2002), 4/10
Svoboda (2002), 5/10
Dolgaya Schastlivaya Zhizn (2004), 6.5/10
Reanimatsiya (2005), 6/10
Zachem Snyatsya Sny? (2007), 6.5/10

Grazhdanskaya Oborona was born in Siberia as the project of Yegor Letov and the early lo-fi cassettes were entirely played and sung by him. Totalitarizm (1987) and Myshelovka (1987) are emblematic of this early anarcho-punk phase. For his anti-establishment lyrics, he was interned twice in a mental hospital. In 1988 he was finally able to assemble a band. They recorded in the space of three days three albums: Vsyo idyot po planu/ Everything Is Going According To Plan, Tak zakalyalas' stal/ That's How The Steel Was Tempered and Boyevoy stimul/ Battle Stimulus, each a collection of very brief angry songs.

Punk songs like Poganaya Molodyozh/ Filthy Youth (1985) revealed Letov as an impeccable pupil of the Ramones, and the Farfisa-driven surf-rock of Sledy na Snegu/ Footprints in the Snow (1987) showed that he could fit even in the garage-rock revival of the time. Another influence was Jonathan Richman in reggae-tinged and poppy ditties like Zoopark (1987) and Na Nashikh Glazakh/ Before our Very Eyes. Psych-rock influenced the distorted Optimizm (1987), while the emphatic singalong Vse Idet po Planu/ Everything is Going According To Plan (1988) was the closest thing to a folk song.

The following year they released six albums: Toshnota/ Nausea, Pesni Radosti i Schast'ya/ Songs of Joy and Happiness, with a new version of Vse Idet po Planu, Zdorovo I Vechno/ Famously and Eternally, Armageddon-pops, Voyna/ War, and Russkoe Pole Eksperimentov/ Russian Field of Experiments.

Armageddon-pops contains virulent rants like Vintovka/ Rifle, in the style of catchy British pub-rock of the late 1970s, and it's Letov's most vitriolic work. Armageddon-pops sounds like Barry McGuire's Eve of Destruction after the destruction. Kak Listovka is the punk version of a requiem. Uzhas I Moral'nyy Terror/ Horror And Moral Terror erupts all the desperation of hardcore punk-rock.

Zdorovo I Vechno contains the distorted visceral punk-rock of Ya ne Veryu v Anarkhiyu/ I don't Believe in Anarchy and Mertvyy Sezon/ Dead season, the supersonic dadaistic rigmarole Vso Sovsem Ne To, the industrial voodoo dance Zdorovo I Vechno, the David Peel-esque street chant Moya Oborona and the catchy singalong Prazdnik Konchilsya/ The Holidays are Over, and the grotesquely operatic hymns Zagovor/ Conspiracy and Vso Kak u Lyudey/ Everything is like People.

Russkoe Pole Eksperimentov contains the delirious 14-minute rant of Russkoe Pole Experimentov/ Russian Field of Experiments over chaotic garage-rock dissonance.

They disbanded just when the Soviet regime was collapsing. Instruktsiya po Vyzhivaniyu/ Instructions For Survival (1990) was their last album, while various compilations collected live classics like Detskiy Mir and Beri Shinel.

Letov started the garage-rock trio Egor I Opizdenevshie which released Pryg-Skok (1990), with the Devo-esque bolero Pro Mishutku and the ten-minute threnody Pryg-Skok, and Sto Let Odinochestva/ One Hundred Years of Solitude (1993).

Grazhdanskaya Oborona reformed in 1995 and released Solntsevorot/ Solstice (1997), recorded in 1995 and reissued as Lunnyy Perevorot/ Lunar upheaval (2005), which contains the folkish Dembelskaya, the anthemic Nechego Teryat/ Nothing to Lose and the solemn organ-driven Zabota u nas Takaya, Nevynosimaya Lyogkost' Bytiya/ The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1997), recorded in 1996 and later re-recorded as Snosnaya Tyazhest' Nebytiya (2005), with the feverish sermon of Pobeda/ Victory and the 14-minute psych-rock suite Nevynosimaya Logkost' Bytiya/ The Unbearable Lightness of Being. The band went on a hiatus again following the accidental death of guitarist Evgeny Pyanov.

Zvezdopad/ Starfall (2002) is a collection of covers. Svoboda/Freedom (2002) contains the street anthem Svoboda/Freedom.

Their last albums adapted a much fuller sound: Dolgaya Schastlivaya Zhizn/ A Long Happy Life (2004), with the stately and poppy Long Happy Life and especially Bez Menya/ Without Me (that weds a baroque melody and metal-grade guitar noise), Reanimatsiya/ Resuscitation (2005), with the poppy and jangling Nebo Kak Kofe/ The Sky is like Coffee, the funereal dirge Reanimatsiya and the eight-minute Ramones-ian Ubivat/ Kill (possibly their most "mainstream" albumfor better and for worse), and Zachem Snyatsya Sny?/ What are Dreams Dreamt for? (2007), with the lullabies Osen and Kroliki/ Rabbits, the romantic folk-rock elegy Siyaniye/ Shine and especially the thundering and anthemic Slava Psikhonavtam/ Glory to the Psychonauts, a fitting swan song.

Yegor Letov died in 2008 from a heart attack.

Throughout his career Letov displayed a stunning melodic gift, a master of the singalong.

(Copyright © 2022 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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