Russendisko Hits (2003)

«Back in the 1970s and 1980s, no one would have thought of Soviet Russia as a hotbed of happening alternative rock. And as this compilation demonstrates, there was a good reason for that perception: it was not, in fact, a hotbed of happening alternative rock. However, it was a place where bands managed, despite pervasive cultural oppression and state-sanctioned musical monotony, to build a small and surprisingly diverse underground dance-music scene. Compiled by emigre DJs Yuri Gurzhy and Vladimir Kaminer, this album brings together a host of slightly cheesy but always quirkily charming selections by the likes of Siberia's Red Elvises, Distemper, the St. Petersburg Ska-Jazz Review and RotFront. These are bands that drew on many different influences and elements, from punk to disco to ska to klezmer, and interestingly, an awful lot of the result ends up sounding like some kind of high-octane polka. Spitfire's "Rio-Rita," Leprikonsi's "Chicks Don't Fall in Love with Me," and Zdob Si Zdub's "Gipsy and an Alien," for example, all fit within that general stylistic designation. But there are surprises as well: a queasy sort of Latin rock from Markscheider Kunst, punk/ska from Leningrad and a genuine klezmer rave-up from the De Amsterdam Klezmer Band (whose founding member is actually from Odessa). Yes, most of this stuff is mostly fun for the kitsch factor, but the album is also a genuinely moving document of youth culture's ability to create weird and crazy music under even the most adverse conditions.» (AMG)

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