When you listen to Russian music, you are downloading anarchy (Sociological Songs Special)

Let’s try something different: a Sociological Songs Special, completely focusing on a single band. And the band is Grazhdanskaya Oborona (Гражданская Оборона, “Civil Defense” in Russian), a landmark USSR punk number from the 1980s [1]. Now I know what you think. But please, suspend your disbelief. The former Soviet Union had, despite repression, a flourishing punk scene. Just have a look at this picture gallery of retro-crested, mirror-shaded, pin-pierced vodka-drinking rockers. Then we’ll talk. And as we are talking, please also have a look at this impressive media archive, where you can download an incredible amount of original recordings, bootlegs, and pictures.

As legend has it, Grazhdanskaya Oborona was the mindchild of Yegor Letov (1964-2008), the self-styled “psychedelic” poet and musician from Omsk, Siberia. Letov always had a talent for controversy. Which might explain why he started his career as an anarchist under a communist regime and ended up, after the fall of the Berlin wall, founding the National Bolshevik Party, a right-wing/left-wing (?) political organization whose symbol is everything but unequivocal. But this is a story for another time…

Like for many other punk bands, Grazhdanskaya Oborona’s songs were a mix of hard rock, noise, ska (sometimes), and unbecoming lyrics. A good example is probably the ironical (and definitely NSFW) винтовка – это праздник (The rifle, what a party)


This week in Anomie (Sunday Sociological Song)

Quick background information: after Tom Leher delivered his infamous “Sociology” song, we were pretty much sure that music and social science did  not really belong together. Luckily for us, a couple of years ago, people at Scatterplot blog came up with a nice idea: trading sociologically-meaningful songs.  How would you deal with – I dunno – social stratification or racial segregation in musical terms?

The seed was planted and, as of last July, Josh McCabe started a Sunday Sociological Song series on his Sociological Imagination blog. Following the example of SocProf, who himself contributed a song, I’m willing to submit an old piece by anarcho-punk British band Crass: Reject of Society is, in my opinion, a pretty literal illustration of Durkheim’s anomie – one that could be used safely in undergrad teaching. Anyone willing to explore other topics?