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?


Hidden track #7 : CCCP – épatez vos amis avec du punk philo-soviétique

Les chanteurs siamois d’Amanda Palmer ? Le crust-ska des Leftöver Crack ? Die Antwoord et la nouvelle scène zef afrikaans ? Admettez-le : à un certain moment, cela devient difficile de trouver quelque chose de vraiment nouveau pour épater vos amis mordus de musique. D’autant plus que, si vous vous mettez à explorer des trucs nouveaux sur Spotify ou sur Last.fm, vous risquez de bousiller vos stats… Mieux vaut s’orienter carrément vers des groupes défunts, genre des formations pratiquement méconnues à la populace, qui n’ont influencé pratiquement personne, et qui ne risquent pas de vous faire suggérer du Lady Gaga la prochaine fois que vous vous pointerez sur iTunes.

Nom : CCCP – Fedeli alla linea (“URSS – Fidèles à la ligne”). Année de création : 1981. Pays : Italie. Genre :  art-punk philo-soviétique avec influences folk, disco et world.

Un petit morceau représentatif de leur production la plus originale : Valium Tavor Serenase, vignette d’aliénation pharmaceutique, mélangeant rock dur et “liscio” (une espèce de valse du nord de l’Italie).


Hidden track # 3: The World/Inferno Friendship Society linkfest

Take a broken-hearted Jersey-born Brooklynite, a bearded saxophonist, an accordionist, a rude chick playing bass guitar, The Dresden Dolls former drummer, a bunch of other wierdos and put them on stage. Bring in an audience of emo-prone kids dressed in their best clothes and ready to mosh and slam and sweat and swear. Make them play a mix of punk rock, Weimar cabaret, pop, kletzmer, and whatever else you can come up with. Shake energically. There you are: Ladies and Gentlemen, the WORLD/INFERNO FRIENDSHIP SOCIETY!!!


* The World / Inferno Friendship Society – Zen and the art of breaking everything
* The World / Inferno Friendship Society – Paul Robeson
* The World / Inferno Friendship Society – Fiend in Wien

* The World / Inferno Friendship Society – My ancestral Homeland, New Jersey
* The World / Inferno Friendship Society – Just the best party

Via Deezer.