Ah, Russkaja. A band utterly unique until I recently checked out Gogol Bordello (who Russkaja’s singer Georgij Makazaria had actually mentioned in an interview we did with him for the last album). Mind you, there are enough differences between the two for them to complement rather than clash. If you like one, chances are you’ll like the other even though they both look at the term “genre” and laugh.
Peace, Love & Russian Roll (2015) was a superb album. It pretty much defined “eclectic” over forty or so minutes of mad pop, punk, rock, ska, classical and traditional music. How on earth could Russkaja top it without just making more of the same or somehow turning originality into repetition? Well, the answer lies with Kosmopoliturbo which manages to have not just an even cooler title, but throws a bit of electronica and effects into the already overflowing melting pot.
Opener and lead single (check it out below) “Hey Road” is just wonderful. This is the kind of song that will have audiences waving their arms back and forth in time to the music. “Alive” throws in some dance/hip-hop style zappy keys of the type you’d expect to hear backing the “Here are all the cool cars with the flash guys and hot women” scenes in a Fast & Furious film. Despite the fact that Russkaja just drop these segments into the middle of an already wonderfully chaotic number, it just works.
“Still In Love” is another of Russkaja’s ballads, in the mould of the last album’s “There Was A Time” – only this time they’ve shoved in some vocal effects a-la that Cher song that was huge about twenty years ago and that Me First and the Gimme Gimmes covered [Looked it up: “Believe” and it was 19 years ago, wow – Mosh]. In other words, it’s incredibly easy to sing along to and catchy as all hell. If anyone else threw those vocal tricks in I’d probably write it off as unnecessary fluff and fiddling, but Russkaja somehow get away with it.
With “Hello Japan” we’re kicked back into the Russian-sounding riffs with images of people “vprisyadku”-ing and headbanging at the same time as the organised chaos of seven band members once again gets let loose. Im not sure what language it’s in – Russkaja know no limits in terms of lexicography or musical style and are incredibly adept at switching either!
“Volle Kraft Voraus” (“Full Steam/Force Ahead”) is in German, though (the band hail from Austria, so this perhaps comes more naturally) and features some more classical sounds with a brilliant upbeat main riff once the heavier section kicks in. The track’s not to be confused with the also superb song of the same name by German industrial metal band Eisbrecher. Not content with German? How about a bit of Italian? “Mare Mare” (“Sea Sea”) will cater for the more Latin-minded amongst you. More of a polka number with a funky beat, I have no idea what it’s about. But being in Italian, there’s probably some “amore” somewhere.
The Eastern Blok is revisited with “Cheburaschka”, a song about a character who, as far as I can find on Google, is Russia’s answer to Mickey Mouse. Hey, why not, eh? Sounds like he rocks more than the House of Mouse’s version, anyway. The language barrier is trodden all over again with the Spanish-worded “La Musica”, a bright hand-clapper of a number. The heavy drops in again with “Chef De Cuisine”, which is in a language this particular reviewer doesn’t recognise and isn’t going to guess at – although I’ll take a stab at something Eastern European if not actually Russian!
It’s probably no surprise with a title of “Send You An Angel” that the closing track is a ballad, and it’s as soulful and soaring as anything Bing Crosby did… only with more electric guitars and drums. The trumpet’s there, though.
So there you have it. Around 35 minutes of bonkers music that, despite being all over the place genre-wise is held together by the common thread of being brilliant. So, yeah, OK, on that basis it’s a direct sequel to the last album. Only different. And every bit as much worth buying.
Now can we get a full UK tour? Please?
Kosmopoliturbo is out on August 4th