Pingvinovo potpalublje – Strah ’83 (rehearsal)
Last year Freaks R Us (The Pop Group themselves) re-issued “For How Much Longer Do We Tolerate Mass Murder?” (1980/2016) which was far too long out of print. They didn’t stick to the song sequence of the original album: “One Out Of Many” track is out, “We Are All Prostitutes” single is now in. I won’t miss the former much – it would have worked better as B-side material even first time around (for example “Forces of Oppression” could have been A-side of never planned single). Freaks R Us really could have included both songs and added other time period related songs for the CD issue thou. CD format easily tolerates extra minutes of music. Anyway, in many cases I liked the record industry practice (or wish of the artists) in UK which kept strong (lead) single separate from the album, as had happened with fiery “She’s Beyond Good And Evil” single & “Y” LP the year before.
For the purpose of refreshed listening experience I’ve also re-imagined this album as 8-song mini LP (cut at 45 RPM!):
A2 Blind Faith
A3 How Much Longer
A4 There Are No Spectators
B1 Forces Of Oppression
B2 Feed The Hungry
B4 Rob A Bank
A We Are All Prostitutes
B Amnesty International Report
Boys (still teenagers!) from Bristol didn’t like to be pigeonholed. They did hate word “rock” and what it had represented in their minds. With fucking passion! Were they good at it? Brilliant! Kudos. “For How Much Longer Do We Tolerate Mass Murder?” (1980) album is as good as “Y” (1979) and as relevant today as it was almost four decades ago.
Boys Next Door (the Birthday Party), the Reactionaries (Minutemen) & perhaps Šarlo akrobata and Trobecove krušne peći from around these parts, among many other bands and music fans all around the world were in total awe!
Remind yourself of The Pop Group greatness and support the recent re-issue from Freaks R Us. Every record shop in town should have The Pop Group in stock for the sake of mental health of the dwindling new generations interested in groundbreaking and mind-blowing music. “For How Much Longer Do We Tolerate Mass Murder?” is a cultural treasure in pop (!?) music. The tags and genre classifications are arbitrary here anyhow.
The last album “Honeymoon On Mars” (2016) ended up a victim of the studio approach in pop song-craft with too many unnecessary layers of electronic sounds, overdubs and banal samples. A step back from unexpected and decent (but symptomatically slicked) return with “Citizen Zombie”. Symbolic opposition and defiant stance would work better in live context (in studio controlled environment) in my humble opinion. I definitely like a poke of straight forward electronic tracks (e.g. “Zipperface”) but the album as a whole may be experienced as continuation of Mark Stewart’s solo albums rather than The Pop Group album. Listening to “Honeymoon On Mars” is like waiting in vain for the vital electricity of simple guitar/bass/drums setup (with a touch of electronica) to surface and rip up overbearing and predictable digital everything of everyday existence. No sweat and other body fluids on the bed sheets in the end. I wish that the sound aesthetic of this particular recording were in total opposite to the intentionally repulsive and frightening cover art. Nice effort thou. What I want I could get in concert, I guess.
For how much longer do we tolerate mass murder?
Until the bitter end. It seems.
“History doesn’t repeat itself, man always does.” – Voltaire
(via David Peace)
*subject to change*
This far away ex Socialist Republic was/is situated deeper in the Balkans where Byzantine ways of singing and chanting have persevered in liturgy. Skopje, the capitol city, was hit by powerful earthquake in 1963 and rebuilt in steel and concrete. So, despite relatively sunny climate and warmhearted folk, one could find just enough Socialist gray areas even down there. Well, I can only guess. Macedonia as a land is usually (and superficially) associated with red vine, mutton, blood red poppies & jazz-rock virtuoso Vlatko Stefanovski’s band Leb i sol whose rise to fame progressed in parallel with the new wave happenings. Although Makedonija very often brings in mind sunshine too, where those rock generations really children of sun (Deca sunca) or darkness? It might seem like the majority of them were children (youth) of God: post-punk (or dark-wave or Gothic) bands that operated like mystic sects branched from Macedonian Orthodox Church – bringing religious Sunday school out of the half-secret parochial classes to the Electric Church and rock stages across the country to amplify their beliefs.
The earliest Macedonian punk and new wave bands didn’t leave official recordings behind. They probably lived fast and died too early or transformed into something else. In general, Macedonian artistic spirit of mid 1980s struck a chord with dark wave.
Since I am not that much familiar with the history of rock and pop music from Skopje and SR Macedonia, beside obvious punk rock or post-punk names (Badmingtons, Bastion, Padot na Vizantija, Mizar etc.), here’s the segment from Wikipedia as a brief overview:
The late 1970s saw the emergence of punk rock. The first punk rock band was Fol jazik, formed in Skopje in 1978. During the 1980s other notable punk groups were Saraceni and Badmingtons, both led by Vladimir Petrovski Karter. Later he switched to a more mainstream sound and formed the group Aleksandar Makedonski.
The new wave scene featured artists such as the ska group Cilindar, Usta na usta and Tokmu taka. Tokmu taka’s vocalist Ljupčo Bubo Karov from Kavadarci later became popular as an actor of the comedy TV show K-15, while Usta na usta’s member Aleksandar Prokopiev became a prominent writer. Another influential band was Bon Ton Bend with Dario Pankovski, who released many hits of new wave music.
The synthpop trio Bastion which featured Kiril Džajkovski was one of the most important 1980s acts. Another notable 1980’s act was Haos in Laos (allegedly in a sort of New Romantic style). The pop-rock group Memorija formed in 1984 was one of the most prosperous from this period. The most productive in the country was the post-punk, darkwave and gothic rock scene which included the cult bands Mizar, Arhangel and Padot na Vizantija, the latter led by Goran Trajkoski. Later he formed the neo-folk group Anastasia which became internationally acclaimed with its soundtrack for the Milčo Mančevski’s Academy Award nominated film Before the Rain.
Notable heavy metal artists were the groups Karamela and Concorde, the latter being remembered for their more radio-friendly hit “Visoki štikli i crni čorapi” (“High Heels and Black Stockings”). Its guitarist Venko Serafimov later started a successful solo career.
The very beginning (1980-83) of the dark decade in rock in Macedonia mainly remained undocumented and the scarce demo recordings are unavailable.
Badmingtones (ex Fol jazik, ex Saraceni) (1983-86) fronted by ever-present punker V.P. Karter played slightly melodic punk-rock throughout the mid decade and even managed to leave a demo tape behind. Now very rare, it consists of earlier recordings done in their own studio and three tracks recorded in professional studio of RTV Skopje in 1985. Their basic punk-rock sound was enriched with electric organ on studio material.
Bastion was yet another smooth ex-YU synth pop combo: drum machine, fretless bass, synths and baby doll singing in Serbian (then known as Serbo-Croatian – the official language in Yugoslavia). The trio was formed in 1983 by Ana Kostovska (vocalist), Kiril Džajkovski (keyboards) and Ljubomir Stojsavljević (bass guitar). The author of their lyrics was the internationally acclaimed film director Milčo Mančevski, at that time a correspondent of the magazine Džuboks. He was also the film director of their music video “Hot day in Mexico”. It’s a shame that at least one single track on their only record was not sung in Macedonian. I remain emotionally reserved to some degree but can understand appeal, there is some beauty in delicate fragility of Bastion’s almost minimal approach. Synth-pop fans that dig albums by Talas (BG), Videosex (LJ) or Denis & Denis (RI) should check it out. The original copies of “Bastion” (1984) issued by PGP RTB are fetching silly prices nowadays.
Energetic post punk (via Echo and the Bunnymen, U2 or Comsat Angels) of short-lived Padot na Vizantija (ex Afektiven naboj) was documented only on a couple of studio/live demo tracks scattered as appearances on three cassette releases (various artists compilations). They split up too soon and freed space for powerful gothic rock delivered by post-JNA Mizar or Mizar II. Surprisingly, Padot na Vizantija toured a bit in their short lifetime and even participated at YURM ’85 festival in Zagreb where they got excellent reviews. If they had managed to record and issue debut album in ’85 it would fit nicely in dark-wave post-punk albums series championed by this blog/site. Padot na Vizantija anthology has been issued by NE! Records this year.
Mizar II put out two critically acclaimed gothic rock (or deathrock) albums before the official end of Yugoslavia. The self-titled debut “Mizar” (1988) would be the most important record from Macedonia from the 1980s (if we put Leb i sol albums in separate category). I used to think that the sophomore effort “Свјат Dreams 1762 – 1991” (1991) was significantly inferior but now I realize that I was wrong – it has its own strong points. I can be fussy only about the clean production on both, as usually.
Aporea (aka Apokrifna realnost) self-released religiously (spiritually) themed vintage industrial tape “Na rekah vavilonskih” in 1988. The material was recorded after Padot na Vizantija had disbanded, sometime in the between the fall of ’85 and winter of ’88.
Lola V. Stain recorded two albums of ambiental music before crucial member Zlatko Origjanski joined Anastasia. The debut “Ikona” (1990) issued for an independent label from Zagreb (Blind Dog Records) is comprised of two long multi-part atmospheric instrumentals: “Makova polja” & “Rani jadi”. These two complex songs are structured from the interchangeable variations based on either bagpipes, traditional ethnic drum (tapan) or a jazzy psychedelic theme.
Anastasia started as collaboration of musicians from Padot na Vizantija, Aporea and Mizar who composed atmospheric music influenced by Macedonian folk and Byzantine church music. This lineage also represents specific artistic vision of Goran Trajkoski that had started with punk band Afektiven naboj. The first EP “Na rjekah vavilonskih” was released as 12’’ record in 1990. It was introduction of sorts for the film soundtrack “Before the Rain” that would become international hit few years later.
Arhangel was Macedonian alternative rock band formed in 1989 by Risto Vrtev (the first vocalist in original Mizar). Their debut album was recorded during last days of Yugoslavia and even pressed in Zagreb by Jugoton in 1991. However, as an active rock band, Arhangel have been more significant for post YU Macedonia.
As an exception to the “rule” and due to the scarcity of recorded Macedonian bands I’ll add Telo-nauka sovršena who were actually living far away from Skopje – they came from a small town Struga (as local punk band Afektiven naboj). I quite like material from their only official release – tape “Kadis” (1988, SKC Niš) but not so much some sound production choices. Like Mizar, Telo-nauka sovršena often sound better to me live than in studio. One can here ghosts of Joy Division [unknown pleasures] or early New Order buried in the hiss and flutter of an old cassette tape. Never heard earliest recorded material (pre “Kadis”), if it really exists in any format.
I am going to end retrospective tripping on ex YU music with this post and take a small imaginary vacation at some fancy resort on the lake of Ohrid. Seeping cold juice under a huge parasol listening to Bastion would make me good now on the verge of winter. I am kidding comrades! I need to spend some quiet time as a recluse contemplating and meditating in a remote Macedonian monastery (without holy scriptures of any kind, of course). OK, I am leaving you with Mizar, not in misery. Godspeed!
The First Two Revelations of Mizar (from a great Wikipedia entry)
Mizar (Macedonian: Мизар [miˈzar]) is a Macedonian rock band from Skopje. They achieved a status of a cult band, especially in Macedonia and across the Western Balkans.
The group is notable for its first self-titled album, as it was the first popular music in Western Balkans record in Macedonian language. The album was a major success and it is listed among the top ten rock albums ever released in Western Balkans.
Mizar was formed in 1981 in the then Socialist Republic of Macedonia. Because of the band’s avant-garde sound and image, its Christian leanings and support for Macedonian self-determination, they were viewed with certain degree of suspicion by the former authorities. Still, the group received great media attention including numerous appearances on the national television.
The band got its name after Mizar which is a guiding star for orientation of travelers in the deserts. The name was given by Panta Džambazoski.
Mizar’s musical style is post-punk, darkwave and gothic rock. Beside influences such as Joy Division for instance, Mizar also uses elements of Traditional Macedonian folklore and Byzantine music. Another main part of their music is Goran’s (both Tanevski and Trajkoski) vocals which are based on Christian church chants.
In their long history, Mizar has had 5 Revelations, all of them with different singers.
The First Revelation (Risto Vrtev)
Mizar were formed in 1981 in Skopje as an instrumental trio of Gorazd Čapovski on guitar, Valentin Žabjakin on bass and Panta Džambazoski on drums. In late 1981, Žabjakin left the band and was replaced with Ilija Stojanovski. Risto Vrtev joined on vocals soon after. In 1982, the group recorded a demo tape for Radio Skopje. They then sent this tape to Jugoslovenski Rock Moment (also known as YURM), who wrote a short but glowing review of the tape. During 1983, the band then had to break up shortly after due to the members’ mandatory army commitments.
The Second Revelation (Goran Tanevski)
In 1985, when the members of Mizar returned from the army, Čapovski attempted to form a band called Inola-X with Vrtev, but it didn’t work out. Mizar then reformed with Goran Tanevski in place of Vrtev and a new keyboardist, Slobodan Stojkov. They started to use elements of the traditional Macedonian folklore and Byzantine music blended with post-punk, darkwave and gothic rock. This phase of Mizar is known as Мизар – Второ Откровение (Mizar – The Second Revelation). Vrtev later founded Arhangel (Archangel) which was awarded as the best rock act in Macedonia during the 1990s. Arhangel inherited certain features of Mizar but with a more conventional rock approach which is why Arhangel was sometimes referred as the Rock Mizar. In 1986, the band filmed a music video for the song “Stoj”.
In 1986, the band played the “Druga godba” festival in Zagreb, but altercations within the band caused Džambazoski and Stojkov to leave the group. They were replaced by Vencislav Smakjoski and Goran Trajkovski respectively. This lineup played at Festival Omladina, with Vladimir Kaevski on keyboards, and contributed two live tracks to the festival’s compilation. These tracks are the first appearance of Mizar on record. Trajkovski would later be replaced by Sašo Krstevski, while Stojkov was replaced by Katerina Veljanovska.
In 1986 they recorded a few demos and were a support act for Laibach and Disciplina kičme on their Yugoslav tour. In 1987 they were awarded for their unique sound at the most significant rock music festival which was held in Subotica.
They released their first, self-titled album, in 1988 with the following line-up:
Goran Tanevski (vocal)
Gorazd Čapovski (guitar)
Boris Georgiev (drums) (ex. Badmingtons)
Sašo Krstevski (bass)
Katerina Veljanovska (keyboards)
The producer was Goran Lisica-Fox. Beside their own songs, the album also included a cover version of the notable Macedonian folk song Zajdi, Zajdi under the title “Златно сонце” (Golden Sun). One of the best known songs from the album is “Девојка од Бронза” (Girl made of bronze).
By 1989, the lineup had stabilised to the following:
Goran Tanevski – vocals
Gorazd Čapovski – guitar
Ilija Stojanovski – bass
Žarko Serafimovski – drums
Vladimir Kaevski – keyboards
This lineup’s first appearance on record was the Demoskop 1 compilation in late 1990, where they contributed two tracks, “Veligden” and “Glas”. Between October and December 1990, the band recorded their second album, Svjat Dreams, releasing it on 7 September 1991, the day before Macedonia split from Yugoslavia. The title of the record is inspired by the song Sweet Dreams by Eurythmics. On this album they covered the traditional song 1762 and a song written by Vrtev, the first singer of Mizar titled “Дом” (Home).
Don’t Look Back vol. VII: Skopje (1-2-ex-YU!!)
Noќ nad Makedonija (1981-90)
Početok i kraj (1983-86)
Badmingtons – Site obični luđe 
Badmingtons – Doađa sabota 
Badmingtons – Moram li jas? 
Bastion – Deca sunca 
Bastion – Mesec u šolji 
Bastion – Molitva 
Padot na Vizantija – Početok i kraj 
Padot na Vizantija – Istata sostojba 
Aporea – Dzvezdo javljajušta solnce [medieval]
Gradot e nem (1986-90)
Aporea – Na rjekah vavilonskih [ancient]
Mizar – Gradot e nem (live) 
Mizar – Stoj 
Mizar – Devojka od bronza 
Mizar – Hoden že 
Aporea – Kondak Sv. Prohoru Pčinjskomu [undated]
Telo-nauka sovršena – Grešnici 
Telo-nauka sovršena – Niz vekovi so grevovi 
Telo-nauka sovršena – Plastična zemlja 
Arhangel – Arhangel ’80 – ’89 (live) 
Telo-nauka sovršena – Son (live) 
Lola V. Stain – Makova polja 1 
Lola V. Stain – Makova polja 2 
Lola V. Stain – Rani jadi 1 
Lola V. Stain – Rani jadi 3 
Mizar – Abja mem 
Mizar – Veligden 
Telo-nauka sovršena – Nebo 
Mizar – Običen čovek 
Soul. Plastic Soul? I quite like it but who needs “drum programming” nowadays. Bang on the drums, drummer! An excellent voice of generation. Para potrbušje moći.
Vol IV: Rock and Pop Music in Ljubljana in the 1980s (incomplete overview)
*subject to change*
Well, the story of YU punk-rock officially starts in Slovenia. Punk rock (and strange local branch of RIO) flourished in this Alpine region and encompassed the whole country due to small size of the northernmost and in some ways most progressive former Socialist Republic. The first independent music labels were situated only in Slovenia in the beginning. ‘Novi rock’ festival in Ljubljana had similar function as YURM in Zagreb, giving chance to local talents. In addition to that Novi rock organizers were inviting interesting foreign bands from independent / underground sector and presenting them to Yugoslavian rock public. Igor Vidmar from Radio Študent had the key role in promotion of new rock music (comparable to John Peel’s radio DJ efforts in UK albeit with very modest broadcast range) in Ljubljana/Slovenia.
Ljubljana (Laibach) is a lovely small town, compared to Zagreb or Beograd. However, it was equally gray and dull as the rest, just a different shade of boredom. To an accidental passerby and stranger, like I was, it always seemed sleepy and tranquil.
— punk rock / new wave —
Who were the culprits and catalysts then? Slovenian bastards – Pankrti!
a step back:
Satirical blues-rock of bearded granddads Buldožer (1975-84) that bulldozed and paved the way for critical thought in mid 1970s YU rock (if they didn’t update the sound farther than Zappa) should be mentioned as pre punk introduction note.
Prog punks ’79
Anyhow, Pankrti are proud parents (they were already students close to 25 years of age) of the first independently released punk single “Lepi in prazni” in 1978. It’s nothing to write home about today but way back it was important harbinger of the new. Heavier and typically mid pace recordings that followed sound like the first generation of punk music in general, steeped in garage rock and glam. It’s hard not to like Pankrti. They were consistent on record all the way except for the last album. These days my favorite would be 2 x 7 inch “Namesto tebe” (1981). Pankrti softened already at the time of their sophomore studio album called “Državni ljubimci” (1982). On the next one called “Rdeči album” (1984) the song arrangements became even more complex with ornamental overdubs added and as a result album is upbeat but a bit bloated too. “Pesme spravi” LP (1985) (produced by Angelic Upstarts guitarist) brought back grittier guitar sound and leaner songwriting. Mature effort “Sexpok” LP (1987) is a disappointing closer. Adio Lublana!
Other Slovenian punk primers like Lublanski psi, Berlinski zid, 92 and Buldogi straddled the thin line between old school punk-rock and original new wave.
Berlinski zid (punk-rock group w / keyboards that was developing post-punk approach in songwriting), 92 (punk-rock band with psychedelic organ reminiscent of the Stranglers; keyboards role was toned down later and new-wave elements crept in) and Buldogi (charming ska-punk kids) were included on legendary VA “Novi punk val 78-80” LP (1981) together with Pankrti and few Croatian punk bands.
Sinister punk-rockers Lublanski psi (I like a lot their songwriting style but don’t know much about them in general) and again primary school punks Buldogi, along the second wave of wild teenage punks from other towns (Kuzle, Industbag, Šund), ended up on the subsequent various artists punk album “Lepo je…” (1982). It was released under coordination of ever-present Igor Vidmar.
At some point in 1981 happened infamous “Nazi punk affair” staged by the System and things got heated for a moment. So, when the creative energy could have really dissipated new generation of bands took over the “scene”…
— post punk —
Here comes the wave of furious post-punk bands: Otroci socializma, Laibach, O!Kult, Borghesia, d’Pravda, Via ofenziva and Čao pičke & very soon after them wild hordes of hard-core punks.
Almost all of them were refined provocateurs whether they chose to operate like an alien cultural organization (Laibach), a sharp-witted individual observer (Otroci socializma & Via ofenziva), a personal rights association (Borghesia) or a group of anarchic idealists (O!Kult).
Otroci socializma were an excellent post-punk band formed after split up of early punk band Berlinski zid. Brane Bitenc, young poet and punk, gave the band distinct individuality that easily separated them from the rest. When I better think about it he had some traits in common with M. E. Smith – stage presence, stature and diction. His sensibilities were different though. At the end (or during the second phase) Otroci socializma started to mess with plastic funk and marred their sharp minimal rock sound with bloody electronic drums in the studio (a bad zeitgeist decision in retrospect, like lazy Jet Black did in the Stranglers). I don’t mind fretless bass, it’s fine with me. Otroci socializma had two indie tapes out in circulation: “self-titled” (1982) and “Kri” (1986). Their members (drummer & bassist) were also guest musicians with Laibach in the studio. Otroci socializma allegedly recorded set of songs for never realized album on ZKP RTVL label – the finished master tapes mysteriously disappeared in transit between record companies.
Similarly focused post-punk band (~ Gang of Four/PiL influenced) with something to say in between lines (and quite directly!) were Via ofenziva, led by another young man with tendency toward poetic expression among punks – Esad Babačić. They didn’t last long but what has been left after them is pretty cool.
Via ofenziva shared split cassette release with Čao pičke, issued on independently oriented and very important Galerija ŠKUC izdaja cassette label (as was the first tape by Otroci socializma). Čao pičke were short-lived drums & bass band with 15 years old punk girl Alenka Marsenič Marsa on vocals. Their brevity and minimalism were mirrored in one minute long no-wave song sketches. After the break up Marsa continued with brilliant Tožibabe, group that moved in hard-core circles. Bass player resurfaced in jazz-rock Lolita in the second half of the 1980s.
O!Kult (from nearby satellite town Medvode) were young leaders of New Left. Early period of their activity under Crass influence was documented on anarcho-punk cassette “Razredni boj je edino gibalo zgodovine” (1983). Few years later they managed to release debut mini LP through German indie label Dossier records. On this overlooked album, divided into 4 long tracks running slightly over half an hour, O!Kult enriched minimalist post-punk with touch of funk groove and repetitive industrial elements. After demise of the band frontman Brane Zorman continued to compose music for theater and art performances.
Borghesia were early on post-punk band with drum machine and subversive collective of multi-media artists simultaneously. At first glance, when portrayed as duo, Borghesia resembled DAF but they were not that similar musically. Borghesia were also notorious for exposing “forbidden” kinds of love, certainly existent but hardly visible during Communist era. Spiritus movens Aldo Ivančić was in addition fully involved with setting up the scene around FV Disco Club and FV Založba indie label. He recorded/produced “Zastave” LP together with Paraf. I am quite fond of Borghesia’s early recordings issued as cassettes (s/t collected early songs; “Clones” was composed of soundtracks for short video films) & debut vinyl album (mostly early material from the 1st tape) titled “Ljubav je hladnija od smrti” LP (1985). In the second half of decade they were making music that could be categorized as (lukewarm) computer generated EBM. I’ve always thought that the sound of not fully controllable analog synths & primitive DIY electronic kits ( submerged in white noise to some degree) depicts general unrest or physicality of rough sex much better than the one produced by earliest digital equipment available. Having said that, I keep “Ogolelo mesto” LP (1988) in collection – I dig dark electronic vibes a la mid 80’s Severed Heads. Borghesia’s passion and interesting ideas were present (boiling under surface) all the time but only partially realized/translated via home computers in the second half of the decade. EBM electronic movement is fine but I am going to stick with period when Borghesia mingled with postpunkers. To each his own…
Laibach (Trbovlje – Ljubljana – London – world) didn’t care at all about rock’n’roll disguised as punk-rock. Their fancy was tickled by Throbbing Gristle and Kraftwerk. Instead of having strapped electric guitars on, Laibach picked best fitting hunting clothes and old uniforms, shined leather boots, oiled trumpets and horns, dusted off snare drums, trimmed their hair to perfect cow-lick… and stepped down from the small town theater stage to challenge (mock) totalitarian or oppressive system/s of this sad world. Original singer of the band hanged himself. Few bigger scandals happened. The name was banned. The group went into exile… but Laibach prevailed in the end. Backed by bigger contract (Mute) for “Opus Dei” LP (1987), that included successful cover/hijack of Austrian white (cod!) reggae hit “Live is Life”, Laibach immersed themselves in the world of POP media manipulation and later digital electronic music / techno. Don’t know about you but I always return back to unnerving spot by kozelec for some post industrial thrill. All their early recordings are excellent up to 1986. Laibach electronic spin offs 300.000 V.K. and Keller should be mentioned as well. That 30 years later they would have a concert in North Korea of all places is really unbelievable.
Enigmatic and ephemeral d’Pravda were provocative art project as much as amateurish band in between RIO and Dada post-punk. As far as I am informed they recorded set of demo songs in the summer of 1982 and soon disappeared.
— hard-core punk —
Teenage hard-core punk is usually on the margins of this website story telling but there were couple of really interesting and pretty pissed off bands in Ljubljana. Early hard-core sampler worth hearing is “Kaj je alternativa?” tape (Stres D. A. / U.B.R. / Odpadki Civilizacije) from 1983. Even better overview of Slovenian aggressive punk is offered on independently released various artists record: “Hard Core Ljubljana 1985”. (U.B.R., III. kategorija, Epidemija, Odpadki civilizacije, Tožibabe)
Pioneering hard-core band U.B.R. also left behind a cult single EP record issued in Italy in 1984. All girls (post) hard-core band Tožibabe managed to put out one of a kind seven inch EP locally. Initial HC phase by melancholic Niet was released on cassette only.
In other words Ljubljana (& SR Slovenia in general) was big and well-connected punk kindergarten / youth center unlike the rest of the SFRJ (with the exception of Rijeka and perhaps Novi Sad).
— synth pop —
Ubiquitous Iztok Turk (ex Kuzle, ex Otroci socializma) among other things also formed synth-pop group called Videosex. Videosex soon overshadowed any of his previous bands being commercially quite successful. Their self-titled debut is solid all the way through thanks to bits and pieces of vintage minimal electronica. Pleasing (sometimes too pleasing) POP aspect was saved by the remarkable and seemingly innocent voice of 16 years old singer Anja Rupel. The second album “Lacrimae Christi” (1985) got quite strong side A. The best songs are reminiscent of mid period New Order.
Somewhere here I’d squeeze anomaly of Gast’r’bajtr’s (from Brežice, not Ljubljana!) Their debut LP “Ni življenja brez ljubezni” (1983), issued on then newly founded independent label Dokumentarna, offered slightly sterile sounding mix of new wave influenced funk rock with saxophone and drum machine. Gastrbajtrs were not melancholic depressives but high spirited guys and that they were preferring drum box to real drums is quite puzzling to me. They formed few spin offs: arty Demolition Group and Silver Barracudas before returning to more energetic Gastrbajtrs dance-rock format few years later. The second album “Pot v raj” (1988) brought them closer to Miladojka Youneed.
Otroci socializma II (“Kri” 1986) under the influence (Alkohol) were treading synth-pop waters (Mlačna voda) in the late night hours (Noč) too.
— RIO & jazz —
Another very important but less known group that influenced Slovenian early 1980s was RIO type of band with specific folk aspect called Begnagrad. They stirred the city’s RIO scene during their second phase of activity and over the time attracted fans of this genre of music from all over the world. Great and weird debut s/t album (1982) is very recommended!
Na lepem prijazni jazz-rock band, as presented on their only album, lacks a bit of forward pushing kinetic energy which was as crucial ingredient for the time of production as it is today.
SRP crowned years long career with a conceptual avant-garde album that resembles soundtrack for a theater play. Recalling RIO, Zappa (jazz-rock period) and drunken cabaret at once, I doubt that SRP sounded like that on stage in concert. Like d’Pravda they crossed paths with post-punk youth occasionally.
Quatebriga (ex Begnagrad) excluded dissonant folk elements from the mix and recorded two jazz-rock albums in mid 1980s. More straight forward “Revolution in the Zoo” LP (1985) is excellent.
Miladojka Youneed started off at the point where city’s jazz-rock predecessors like Na lepem prijazni stopped and added hard core energy. Cutting down singing a little they left space for bleating saxophones to talk. Early jazz-punk Miladojka Youneed was awesome. Check out their first release issued on cassette only! They were simultaneously free and tight, playing eccentric combination of jazz-funk and punk. Unfortunately, the sound of debut record “Ghastly Beyond Belief” (1987) is produced too aggressively. Perhaps they strove for inhuman machine-like sound wishing to be extra repulsive. Industrial sheen of digital (~ ghastly) recording can sound terribly shrill to my jaded ears on a bad day, especially when it comes to drums. Too bad. With the second album “Bloodylon” (1990) Miladojka Youneed moved too far inside the dance rock territory for my liking.
Otroci socializma could be main protagonists of post-punk chapter in this pretty exciting period of Ljubljana’s rock and pop history. If they had an official album realized it would be for sure put on a pedestal here. Luckily post-punk and other “underground” or “alternative” happenings have been documented through already mentioned ŠKUC izdaja & FV založba small labels. Viva Ljubljana! The three most representative records for a short and intensive retrospective trip would be:
(1) Borghesia “Ljubav je hladnija od smrti” (85) , (2) Various Artists “84” (84) & (3) Laibach s/t (85)
Don’t Look Back vol. IV: Ljubljana (1-2-ex-YU!!)
VA Post-punk Ljubljana (1982 – 85)
Otroci socializma – Lublana (live) (1982)
O!Kult – Molitev (live) (1982)
d’Pravda – Socijalizam (1982)
Laibach – Rdeči molk (live) (1982)
O!Kult – Mi!Mi!Mi! (live) (1982)
Laibach – Država (ver.) (1983)
Via ofenziva – Minimalni ritem (1983)
Otroci socializma – 700 usnjenih torbic (1983)
Borghesia – Divlja horda (1983)
Čao pičke – Pesem B (1983)
O!Kult – Tovariši (čigavi?) (1982)
Otroci socializma – Vojak (1983)
Via ofenziva – Proleter (1983)
Laibach – Mi kujemo bodočnost (1984)
SRP – Svuda ljudi, svuda zastave (1984)
O!Kult – Collective Consciousness (Kolektivna zavest) (1985)
VA Punk (punk-rock, new wave, hard-core) Ljubljana (1978 – 85)
Pankrti – Anarhist (1978)
Lublanski psi – Anti proti (1980)
92 – Kontroliram misli (1980)
Berlinski zid – Po cestah mesta (1980)
Buldogi – To ni balet (1980)
92 – Od šestih do dveh (1980)
Berlinski zid – Revolucija (1980)
Pankrti – Gospodar (1981)
Lublanski psi – Neumni, odpisani in prazni (1981)
Buldogi – V kotu sveta (1981)
Pankrti – Za železno zaveso (1982) live
Otroci socializma – Hiše so sive (1982) live
Via ofenziva – Jugoslavija (1983) live
Pankrti – Slavni razglas (1983)
U.B.R. – Utrujenost (1983)
Stres D.A. – Domovina (1983)
Niet – Umiranje (1984)
III. kategorija – Za tebe (1985)
Odpadki civilizacije – Vojna-smrt! (1985)
U.B.R. – Zgodovino piše zmagovalec (1985)
Tožibabe – Dežuje (1985)
Pankrti – Sistem svobode (1985)
VA Queer (synth-pop, minimal synth, EBM, industrial) Ljubljana (1983 – 87)
Borghesia – Ljubav je hladnija od smrti I (1984)
300 000 V. K. – TV generacija (1983)
Gast’r’bajtr’s – Tu mač prežr (1983)
Borghesia – Secret Affair no. 2 (1984)
Videosex – Ana (1984)
Borghesia – Noćne šetnje (1984)
300 000 Verschiedene Krawalle (V.K.) – Policijski hit (1983)
Laibach – Brat moj (1984)
Borghesia – Secret Affair no. 3 (1984)
Otroci socializma – Možgani (1985)
Videosex – Sivi dan (1985)
Otroci socializma – Moj svet (1985)
Laibach – Die Liebe (1985)
Keller – Senza amore (1986)
Borghesia – Ni upanja, ni strahu (1987)
VA Jazz Ljubljana (prog, jazz-rock, avant, RIO, jazz-punk): TBA
Meanwhile, down on the ocean beach at SST premises…
Bye bye Ladbroke Grove & Rough Trade !!
In 1982 SST continued to broaden their Hermosa / Redondo Beach label beyond its original inner core circle (Black Flag – Minutemen – Saccharine Trust) sifting peculiar talent among punk-rockers, surfers and freaks in larger LA area and even outside California. Stains, Overkill and Meat Puppets (via Thermidor label) had already been recruited the year before in ’81. Dual guitar Black Flag (on obligatory hiatus due to lawsuit) recorded phenomenal Demo ’82 which would be the central event of the year. Würm regrouped because Dukowski wasn’t allowed to play bass under Black Flag anymore. About that time Saint Vitus, the Subhumans, Dicks and Hüsker Dü (via New Alliance label) joined the SST ranks. According to signor Carducci, Bad Brains had an open offer too.
So, let’s bring Blasting Concept back in slightly different way, following a linear timeline more precisely, beginning with late ’82 / early ’83 recording activities with legendary SST house engineer and producer Spot.
(1) Saint Vitus – The Psychopath (from “Saint Vitus” LP 1984) A
Saint Vitus – mammoth of a band (pulled out from La Brea tar pits!) – recorded seminal self-titled album in late ’82 with Spot. The tapes were sitting on SST shelves until early ’84 waiting for the cash inflow. The album sounds immense in its primordial slowness. Saint Vitus’ inclusion was indeed a tectonic move/ment for SST camp, not immediately recognized outside LA. It took many sloth years before humble Saint Vitus started to get reappraisal, mainly through fellow bands interested in heavy rock. Nowadays they are metal kings – highly appreciated grandfathers of (millennial) Doom or so called Stoner Rock.
(2) the Dicks – Pigs Run Wild (from “Kill from the Heart” LP 1983) B+
Heavy Texan punks Dicks didn’t shy away from blues-rock and soul while playing punk rock. Early songs from their first single and live split w / Big Boys are indeed classics but this debut LP brought something else to the table beside fearlessness. “Kill From the Heart” is (flawed) masterpiece that illustrates diversity of American punk-rock bands often superficially categorized same as juvenile and formulaic hard-core boybands. Although I appreciate communist slant and passionate rage of young singer Gary Floyd, sometimes I’d rather hear about “pigs” (cops), “nazis” or “klan” in a more focused way. Also, I don’t mind “Dicks Can’t Swim” funk jam but it does sound hamfisted a little. “Kill From the Heart” was recorded probably in late ’82 or early months of ’83. Political and social activist Gary Floyd would soon leave for San Francisco… the rest of the band decided to return to Austin after brief Frisco scene try-out. Dicks (mk I) split up.
Indicative cover version: Purple Haze by Jimi Hendrix Experience.
(3) Husker Du – Deadly Skies (from “Metal Circus” mini-LP 1983) A
“Metal Circus” was finished very early in ’83. Typical hard-core songs from yesteryear were dropped from the repertoire and the world of rock music got an almost perfect mini-LP in rushed mid-tempo, but heavy enough. Buzz bomb from Minneapolis invokes Cold War dread on “Metal Circus”, even more personal than collective this time around. American individualism, you know. Using Minutemen spiel it could be dubbed “Buzz and Howl Under the Influence of Cold“.
(4) the Subhumans – America Commits Suicide (from “No Wishes, No Prayers” LP 1983) B
The Subhumans, politically active band from Canada, drove south from Vancouver bringing along spirited and moderately melodic take on old school punk-rock. It was not that dissimilar to the sound of their fellow citizens D.O.A., maybe a bit lighter. Their second full length album “No Wishes, No Prayers” was recorded in late ’82 or early ’83 with partially changed line-up capturing original group’s last gasps. There was only one “No Wishes, No Prayers” pressing because the Subhumans had already split up before SST managed to put it out.
Indicative cover version: Screwed Up by Menace.
(5) Minutemen – Little Man with the Gun in His Hand (from “Buzz or Howl…” EP 1983) A
“Buzz or Howl…” was recorded in two sessions: 01/83 and 05/83. Beloved caffeinated Californian leftist punks of the first order were enamored with politically charged UK art punk. More so than any other band related to SST. On the other hand, Minutemen were not ashamed of US arena rock that dominated their formative years too. Hard-rock moves to come (past one-off novelty trick “Project Mersh” EP) didn’t suit them. Their final album “3-Way Tie For Last” is actually an average 12″ EP stretched to a stodgy hodge-podge LP.
(6) Meat Puppets – We’re Here (from “Meat Puppets II” LP 1984) A
It took only year and a half from art/redneck hard-core punk cacophony of “Meat Puppets” (ruined by drunken/affected vocals) to this evergreen masterpiece. “Meat Puppets II” was recorded in (eternal) spring of 1983. Cock your ears and hold the breath! They are here.
(7) Saccharine Trust – Our Discovery (from “Surviving You, Always” LP 1984) A
“Surviving You, Always” is Saccharine Trust’s first LP, recorded in October ’83. Saccharine Trust didn’t care for UK stuff (music) one bit, it seems to me. These insular jazz cats were influenced by James Blood Ulmer, Beat poetry & Old Testament in equal measure. Saccharine Trust never made it, God knows why. Were they ignored (by American college radio and common punk rock fans of the day) due to “non-communicative” material lacking obvious POP hooks. Or were they just lazing around in drunken stupor too much? A hidden SST jewel. Lovely black sheep.
Indicating cover version: Peace Frog by the Doors.
(8) Husker Du – Somewhere (from “Zen Arcade” dbl LP 1984) B+
Somewhere over the rainbow? No such place on the horizon. Zen Arcade Tour de Force is still exciting conceptual double album done as a tribute to the Who (who are real rock archetypes for fucked-up childhood / upbringing). Hüsker Dü recorded “Zen Arcade” very quickly in October ’83 as well, desperately trying to reach see-through zen state of mind with high intake of amphetamines. I totally flipped out during crossover punk-rock / speed-metal side-B while revisiting whole album for the purpose of this blog post. Mind bending!
Indicative cover version (a howling scorcher): Eight Miles High by the Byrds.
(9) Würm – 98 DA (from “Feast” LP 1985) C
Würm tapes were recorded sometime during 1983 with Ethan James and then they were bunkered. Sound of “Feast” gives off great live feel from roomy acoustics of old Radio Tokyo studio. The evil content might be a required taste. The second coming of Würm could be regarded as warming up for SWA since they broke up right after completion of this mongrel album. Würm was fronted by theatrical singer (Simon Smallwood) looming above band’s uncertain future like bad omen. The pattern continued later in SWA (Merrill Ward). Simon’s approach had more in common with lysergic madness though. “Feast” LP (1985) offers grotesque psychedelic hard-rock worth hearing in its entirety at least few times. Perhaps Dukowski had to vent his pent-up anger somehow.
(10) Black Flag – Nothing Left Inside (from “My War” LP 1984) B+
Recorded in December ’83 under (outstanding guitarist & SST boss) Greg Ginn’s tight reins. “My War” is exceptionally important and influential work-out recorded during Black Flag’s transient line-up still without official replacement for original bass player Dukowski. Album grade was a bit lowered just because Dukowski’s propulsive aggro playing is somewhat missed on “My War”.
Blast your mind with half an hour long alternative take: Blasting Concept ’83 (ver.)
1984 can re-start right now!
Progressive punk rockers indeed. I’ll remain impressed forever.
*subject to change*
Korekcije faktografije, dopune, HQ mp3 doprinos (bilo bi lijepo čuti Ove sezone vedri tonovi!) i slično… su dobrodošli.
Provodim dane u parku nekom, u drugi grad otplivam rekom
tu spavam u potkrovlju slepom, rano uveče i posle još
“Došla su tako neka vremena” (La strada)
Novi Sad, the capital city of Vojvodina (at the time autonomous region in the north of Socialist Republic of Serbia) was a multi-cultural micro-center for new wave happenings. As with any other blog post about the ex-YU city “scenes”, this one starts with a domestic punk band too.
Pekinška patka (1978 – 81) was at the same time the first Serbian (or as their singer likes to point out as an illustration – the very first punk band from Christian Orthodox cultural setting). A lot of punk-rock scholars and fans around the world hold their debut album (at least one year late in production) “Plitka poezija” LP (1980) in high regard. It’s an example of entertaining punk with catchy hooks and exactly because of that melodic aspect Pekinška patka can be regarded as an authentic case globally. By the way, their singer Čonkić (Čonta) was a high-school professor at the time! Weirdos.
In Novi Sad there were quite a lot punk bands (Gomila G*, Crkveni pacovi*, Rafal*, Armija Spasa*, Van kontrole*, Dva minuta mržnje, Vrisak generacije, Fluorel Tačkaš*… ) of all varieties stretching the old school punk-rock tag over street-punk/Oi and later throughout whole decade over various versions* of hard-core punk. Looking back (from safe distance) it seems that Novi Sad was also capital city of street-punk/Oi in ex-YU. Obvious pick of the litter would be Dva minuta mržnje (studio demo ’84).
Pekinška patka II (1980 – 81) is yet another example of fairly successful transformation into post-punk band (quite tight instrumentally). However, Čonta’s changed persona hovering above in darker circumstances can grate my oversensitive ears on few songs. It took me years (even decades) to get accustomed. One can have impression that the second album came too soon (with obvious post-punk influences and ideas brought in with new guitarist Bulatović barely toned down) or that Pekinška patka were losing the steam towards the end. That said, I prefer “Strah od monotonije” LP (1981) nowadays.
Original guitarist/sax player of Pekinška patka left the band before completion of their second album to join newly formed young ska-punk band Kontraritam (1980-82). Thanks to exceptional rhythm section Kontraritam could easily bring it on in concert. Lucky kids with happy feet.
New wave / power-pop bands of note in Novi Sad were Pop art* (officially undocumented) and Fotomodel (with a single put out by Jugodisk).
New wave circus rock troupe Laboratorija zvuka hailed from Novi Sad too. They were often novelty guests on ex-YU TV channels playing upbeat songs specifically arranged for children or, at the other side of spectrum, they were offering lascivious tunes for adult public. “Laboratory of Sound” caravan traveled across the country quite a lot. They even had conceptual performance abroad in London at some point in mid-decade.
New wave art project La strada (1979 – 81) led by Slobodan Tišma ended prematurely with formation of Luna. From this early phase they left behind two studio songs recorded in 1980.
Luna (1981 – 84) put out only one post-punk / dark-wave album and then (acrimoniously) split up before LP even appeared in the stores. Group of distinct individuals – great drummer Fece aka Firči (would become part of EKV (Belgrade) gang soon), excellent guitarist Bulatović aka Bale (ex Pekinška patka II), cohesive organ/synth player Mitrušić aka Mina & peculiar poet Tišma (ex La strada; here as stressed-out vocalist on the verge of mental breakdown) – barely managed to keep Luna together to document their intense existence. Film noir scenario! Perhaps presence of bass player would have pushed “Nestvarne stvari” LP to an even higher level… Well, I am being fussy here because this album really is awesome as it turned out. I might be emotionally more involved with Obojeni program and Boye but regarding the post-punk time frame “Nestvarne stvari” (Helidon, 1984) is picked as the centerpiece album from Novi Sad. Recorded in autumn of 1983 it would fit perfectly in early 4AD portfolio of bands (Bauhaus, Birthday Party, Mass, Modern English, Xmal Deutschland, Wolfgang Press) closing the post-punk years of said esteemed label with a record license from Helidon label.
Luna sank in Danube to be washed ashore (think of some secluded river inlet overgrown with sedge rather than right between sun bathers on Štrand in summer time) as La strada II (1984 – 8?) again. Tišma kept on cooperation with Luna synth player Mina and invited Kontraritam dudes for reformed version of La strada. They recorded eponymous album in 1986 (or was it really Live Aid summer ’85?). It was pressed in even less copies than “Nestvarne stvari” by Luna. La strada were moving away from new-wave / post-punk templates towards literate guitar pop-rock (and 1960s influences). In my opinion Tišma’s vocal performance on La strada suits him better than his attempts at singing on “Nestvarne stvari”. On “La strada” (M produkcija RNS, 1987) album Tišma seemed to be more relaxed although he was unsatisfied with the end results. His brooding voice evokes (Slavonic) melancholia of river plains pretty well. In the flat field people do get bored.
Grad (1981-82) was short-lived post-punk band (DAF, Joy Divison / New Order) interested in synths and cold electronic sounds coming out of Germany.
Boye (1981 – 199?) Enough!!! Enough of street-punk boot-boy bravado! Make space for girls to rock out freely or just dance and play modern pop songs. Or whatever they like to call their style. The Raincoats and Kleenex/Lilliput … might have left an impression on girls from Novi Sad. Boye recorded two excellent albums “Dosta! Dosta! Dosta!” (PGP RTB, 1988) and “’78” (Search & Enjoy, 1990) in succession that were preceded with plenty of tentative synth-pop/post-punk demo steps around Jugoton contract. Allegedly they had enough recorded material for an album even as early as 1984.
Obojeni program (1980 – ) are indeed rock institution from Novi Sad today. Who would say. They formed in the early 1980s, finally recorded debut LP as late as 1990 for newly established indie label “Search & Enjoy” from Zagreb and… remained present. People often find Branislav Babić Kebra’s piercing vocal a required taste but to me he sounds just perfect. Band’s fascination with M.E. Smith & the fall might be constant although not directly evident in their music. I am not sure if Obojeni program were ever captured on tape before unavoidable mid-1980s hiatus (JNA). Allegedly their early years were characterized by punk-funk sound. They continued live activities in 1985/86 with revolving membership and for a couple of years band existed as drum/bass/vocal trio. At the tail end of the decade Obojeni program would find balance with new guitarist and record long-waited first album together with Dušan Kojić – Koja (Disciplina kičme, Beograd) as producer. “Najvažnije je biti zdrav” LP (1990) is legendary around these parts.
Cult postpunk band Ove sezone vedri tonovi (1981 – 83) even appeared at YURM ’82 festival in Zagreb. Velvet Underground, This Heat and RIO bands are usually mentioned as possible influences or just OSVT’s affiliation. It seems that they disappeared without the recorded evidence of existence. Few OSVT members continued with free form avant-garde group Cirko della primavera** in the second half of the decade. Low budget avant cassette label Nikad Robom originated from this group of forward (or outward) looking folk. As a side note, Đorđe Delibašić – Đoka, member of the collective, recorded SexA’s noise-rock album in Novi Sad in 1990.
According to the book “Novosadska punk verzija” Armija kontrasta ltd* were short-lived post-punk band with rhythm-machine.
Neon vojnik* (ex Crkveni pacovi), Krik maske* and Skice* (ex Linija otpora) shared common love of Killing Joke at the different time frames and probably in a slightly different way. Judging by track “Grobar” solely Neon vojnik really had something to offer. After all, Killing Joke used to be popular with UK ’82 street punks and anarcho crowds as well. Do you remember Blitz (UK) boys and their excursion into post-punk waters on their second full length album?
Mitar Subotić aka Rex Ilusivii was an experimental electronic musician and producer.
Art-rock white-funk synth-pop romantics of Novi Sad were called Heroina. Frontman Petar Janjetov is esteemed artist / comics author today. At the time of recording their only album “Heroina” (1985) they had to replace departed drummer with a drum machine. It is somewhat reminiscent of Roxy Music, Boa (Zagreb) or Gang of 4 (during “Hard”). One can easily find couple of attractive songs (nice guitar playing) while in the heart-broken mood.
Ponoćni kauboj* were rock band (with brass section) from the second half of the decade. Perhaps they realized that in “punk-rock” the part that really matters belongs to “-rock”. The only one track I’ve heard by them reminded me of Električni orgazam (Belgrade) and their own R’n’R transformation.
Hip-hop punk rockers Atheist Rap surfaced out of the hard-core punk scene in 1989 and reigned over Novi Sad (and beyond) in oncoming decades. Street-punk/Oi and hard-core in general gained momentum around that time and you get first studio recorded material by Vrisak generacije (Oi punk), Ritam nereda (Oi punk), Mr. Joint (Oi punk/HC), Kapetan Leshi (hard-core), Generacija bez budućnosti (hard-core), KNO / Invalidi uma (hard-core)…
* scarce info about these bands gathered from “Novosadska punk verzija” book
**read more thoroughly about other side of Novi Sad on this extraordinary blogspot guide: Other Novi Sad Scene of the 1980s
Don’t Look Back vol. III: Novi Sad (1-2-ex-YU!!)
Pekinška patka – Biti ružan, pametan i mlad (’79)
Fotomodel – To nisi ti (’81)
Kontraritam – Obojeni grad (’82)
Pekinška patka II – Monotonija (’81)
La Strada – Sat (’80)
Grad – Gradsko šetalište (Maske) (’82)
Rex Ilusivii – Zla kob (’83)
Neon vojnik – Grobar (’83)
Luna – Fakir (’83)
2MM – Terorizam (’84)
Boye – Mikrosvet (’83)
Heroina – Zaigrajmo (’85)
Rex Ilusivii – Arabia (’85)
La Strada – Došla su tako neka vremena (’85)
Ponoćni kauboj – Mesec (’88)
Boye – (Gde) možemo se sresti (’88)
Atheist Rap – Atheist Rap (’89) uživo
Obojeni program – Kosmos u tvom srcu (’90)
Ritam nereda – Suton (’90)
Cirko della primavera – Sveti Mihajlo u laganom afričkom kasu u kozinom stilu ubija sedmoglavog apokaliptičnog zmaja (’89)
Rijeka is the largest port city in the bay of Kvarner in the Northern Adriatic. It is (was) famous for its shipyards and quite tall soc-realist skyscrapers built on steep rocks looming above the narrow strip of land where the city center has been squeezed. Rijeka has nothing in common with capital city of Zagreb bar couple of edifices left after Austrian/Hungarian rule over the land. Rijeka used to have more punk rock bands per square km than any place in Croatia, closely following Ljubljana in whole ex-YU. The prevailing spirit of this city was closer to confrontational brand of punk rock played by teenagers crazy enough to raise hell and challenge (actually just tease) questionable communist morality and ethics along the way. Due to geographical position they gravitated more towards leading ahead Ljubljana (Slovenia) than to Zagreb. In addition, Rijeka had a very important focal point in ‘svengali’ figure Goran Lisica Fox, at the time just few years older than an average teenage punk. He was helpful in steering the collective energy towards some artistic goal (in post-punk sense) or eventual record label deal. Later on he founded Dallas Records, a small independent label of sorts.
As the story goes, the first punk band in Rijeka, Croatia (and perhaps Yugoslavia; depending on point of view) was Paraf, a brainchild of teenager Valter Kocijančić. After having read news about thing called ‘punk’ in imported music papers (NME) he decided to form the very first YU punk band. The whole 1977 was spent mostly in the garage and the first official appearance of Paraf happened early in 1978. Their late debut LP “A dan je tako lijepo počeo…” (1980) was recorded with borrowed instruments at the time when band was going through the changes. The guitar tracks were mixed too low which brought extra disappointment. Anyhow, punk rock mission accomplished, mischievous front-man left to finish his studies and become teacher. The band transformed into Paraf II (~ Siouxsie and the Banshees) with significant line-up change & persevered as genuine post-punk band during the first half of the 1980s.
Unlike situation in Zagreb with very weak punk response, there were more late 70s punk bands of note in Paraf’s tow (Zadnji, Termiti, Protest, Mrtvi Kanal, KAOS etc.) in Rijeka.
Termiti (1978 – 1982) were only band from the first bunch of city punks that had enough recorded material for a long play record in the beginning of 1980s. Their sound was from the start enriched by little electric organ with 60’s overtones and the songwriting became more complex at the end. Stage antics aside, punk concerts (performances) by Termiti were pretty wild.
Istočni izlaz (1979 – 81) were high-school punk-rockers with clean-looking mod aspirations. Think of the Jam.
Actually Rijeka had all sorts of bands to offer. Hard-core punk, neither of UK ’82 nor US ’81 variety, didn’t catch on in the 1980s. After the initial punk-rock outbursts from almost every part of the city, Rijeka got veiled in dark-wave gloom. Art decade.
The next record “Izleti” (1981) by Paraf II (1981 – 87) is an exceptional album for the time and place although somewhat patched with silly/playful filler/arrangements. Singer Vim Cola was still trying to find her voice as a young woman in punk. One of their better songs ever called (Državni) Praznik and recorded during LP studio sessions, didn’t appear on the album in the end. Censored? Follow-up album “Zastave” (1984), Paraf’s final release, is indeed Croatian (and ex-YU) dark-wave masterpiece and a definitive (centerpiece) album from Rijeka – a tattered flag of bygone revolutions attached to some rusty flagpole in the remotest city corner, waving in a heavily scented spring breeze to attention of very few outside the inner punk rock circle. It was issued by (adventurous) Helidon record label from Slovenia. At that time a lot of young bands around the world were preoccupied with the ideas about totalitarian society par excellence and/or imminent nuclear wipe-out, wrapped up in a typically adolescent (and self-induced) Cold War paranoia. The small-scale war would happen soon enough though. This captivating album could have been one of the warning dreams.
Mrtvi kanal (1979 – 1983) were second best post-punk band in town early on. They stood out of the punk crowd even with the casual first glance due to long-haired accordionist / synth player in the mature line-up. At their last stage, as late as 1983, this bizarre looking group managed to record seven energetic and provocative songs under the Stranglers or Joy Division spell. The recordings were put out on a split tape shared with their comrades Grč. “Mrtvi kanal / Grč” (1983) would be one of the first independently released cassettes on Slovenian label Galerija ŠKUC izdaja, and for sure the first one for a band from Croatia.
Grč I (1982 – 87) evolved in a rabid beast of a band gradually. Early period captured on the previously mentioned cassette presented them as politically charged followers of Pere Ubu, sort of similar to SexA in sound but less arty and more sinister. Over the period of few years they grew heavy body and became scary axe swinging Goths who favoured razor sharp Killing Joke sound (when KJ themselves were going through troubled synth-pop phase!). In a way they shared (confrontational) interests and subject matter with Trobecove krušne peći (Zagreb) too. Recent vinyl reissue of “Sloboda narodu” (1987/2016) is highly recommended. Grč were type of Goths leaving unsavory odor of sweat and stench of carcass after them, not patchouli scent. They were also into pretentious rock performances so common in Rijeka. Truly remarkable sound thou.
KAOS (1979 – 1984) also brought forth two distinct appearing forms: early punk-rock lasting up to ’81 and then synth-punk (1982 – 84). Unwanted loss of drummer worked well for them eventually. The best songs by KAOS are based on rhythm-machine matrix. Dorotea (another exceptional female punk vocalist) reminded of Nina Hagen a bit because of her high-pitched warble. KAOS’s later phase (issued on CD recently) is highly recommended.
Ogledala (ex Istočni izlaz, Kum) (1982 – 87) were brokenhearted young men with healthy power pop instincts and origins in mod-punk band Istočni izlaz. Their direct lyrical expression matched with grandiose and spacey arrangements (Echo & the Bunnymen / U2 / Simple Minds) that included synth, was very close to being over the top. They wore their hearts on their sleeves (instead of zips, chains and badges). Material recorded in 1984 in Ljubljana for potential album that never materialized (unearthed in 2008 for a CD issue) shows fine ideas gone in unpleasant direction sound-wise in the studio (bloody big drum sound!). If they had stayed closer to their live sound it would sound much better today, less pompous at least. It seems that Ogledala often got carried away while daydreaming. Dreams are free, motherfuckers! Excellent drummer, by the way.
Quiet (and quite depressive) new-wave rock band Konjak (1981 – 85) existed on the margins of the city scene until the lead guitarist/singer joined Paraf II and broke up the band for good. They left interesting demo tracks behind (mainly recorded in 1982). Konjak preferred dry (guitar) sound and bare bones rock arrangements. Might have been influenced by Azra a little bit.
Umjetnici ulice (1982 – 83) were balancing between punk rock and new wave while their passionate singer tried to steal the show. He continued his now decades long artistic career with dark-wave group Let 2 (1984 – 86). Let 2 lasted few years as rock spinoff of electronic experimental performance group Strukturne ptice (1982 – 87). In the end they managed to overshadow Strukturne ptice with activity and became a warming up platform for Let 3.
Idejni nemiri (1982 – 88) transformed from anything goes punk-rock to an average pop-rock band after collective hiatus (traumatic experience in JNA?).
Fit (1982 – 91) also started early in the decade and went through few developmental phases: from punk-rock beginnings over mid-1980s dark alt rock (usually connected with the likes of Echo & the Bunnymen or U2) to EKV (Belgrade) sisterhood. It resulted with PGP RTB record contract and debut album (Goth-rock; Cult, Mission) produced by EKV boss Milan Mladenović.
Other groups in Rijeka that shared EKV art-rock visions to some extent were Grad and Laufer.
Demo part of the scene in the mid-1980s was captured on independently released VA record “Rijeka – Paris – Texas” (1987) showing the sugarcoated pop melody on the rise. These pop bands probably belonged to Paris quarters of Rijeka. Grč, Let 2 and Let 3 were definitely from Texas side of town. Some of them participants eventually managed to release debut LP and the best one, without any doubt, was by Let 3.
Let 3 (1987 – ) might stand for the third attempt for successful flight. They really did it their way despite having their flight feathers dirty with resin and blackened with tar. As original Grč guitarist joined the group they succeeded the title of Croatian Killing Joke with the difference that Let 3 really ended up mainly as surrealist jokers. The dark and psychedelic phase of Let 3 was short lived compared to circus rock career that followed. They have been into cross-dressing, surrealist exhibitionism & most importantly into Rock Theater as a way of life since then. “Two Dogs Fuckin’” (1989) is a brilliant record thou – as shameless and disturbing as two shabby dogs mating in the middle of Korzo promenade.
Power-pop group with older and experienced musicians with Jugoton record contract and better connections in Zagreb were Xenia (1981 – 85). The first single & “Kad nedjelja prođe” LP (1983) are well crafted new wave influenced pop rock records.
Synth pop duo Denis & Denis (1982 – 1986) gained popularity throughout the whole ex YU thanks to strong voice and sensual sighs of female singer. Their early hits like Program tvog kompjutera or Soba 23 are on par with commercial UK synth pop. Minimal synth demos recorded in 1982-83 are a bit closer to post-punk spirit though.
Pioneering all girl pop-rock band Cacadou (Look) (1983 – 91) might have had hearts in the right place in the beginning but producers slicked their sound on debut LP too much. Too bad.
Industrial rock band Transmisia (1987 – 9?) (Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, Killing Joke, Big Black) and post HC noise rockers Regoč appeared on the scene at the end of decade but their debut records would see the light of day in another decade and other countries (Italia, USA, Slovenia) altogether.
Don’t Look Back vol. II: Rijeka (1-2-ex-YU!!)
Paraf – Reforma školstva (’78) – radio session
Istočni izlaz ( w / V. Kocijančić) – Plava koverta (’79) – radio session
Paraf – Visoki propisi (’80)
Termiti – Mama, s razlogom se brineš (’80)
Paraf II – Državni praznik (’81)
Termiti – Kišni razdraganci (’81)
KAOS – Samo prvom klasom (’82)
Konjak – Pretežno vedro (’82) – demo
Grč – Ja imam pasoš (’83)
Mrtvi kanal – U ludnicu (’83)
KAOS – Roboti (’83)
Denis & Denis – 28 minuta do 5 (’83) – demo version
Xenia – Vjetar u kosi (’83)
Cacadou (Look) – Sama (’84) – demo version
Ogledala – Kako ti je sada (’84) – live in Split
Paraf II – Nikad nikad nikad (’84)
Let 2 – Ne trebam te (’84)
Grč – Crne rukavice (’87)
Transmisia – Šume umiru (’87)
Strukturne ptice – Zbog zvuka i pobuđivanja (’87)
Grad – Grad (’87) demo
FIT – Rijeka (’88)
Let 3 – Sam u vodi (’89)