Doesn’t matter what you see
Or into it what you read
You can do it your own way
If it’s done just how I say
Freedom of Choice is made for you my friend
Freedom of Speech is words that they will bend
Freedom with their exception
— Metallica, “Eye of the Beholder”
I’ve been traveling lately so apologies for coming through a couple of days late on this but I couldn’t help noticing this story from the AFP on the return of Russia’s indy music scene:
Ironically, some of the leading figures in 1980s rock now perform at patriotic concerts organised by the Kremlin.
But in Saint Petersburg, a city long seen as Russia’s “window to the West”, a handful of bands have defied the trend and continue to speak out.
They include PTVP, whose full name translates as “TheLast Tanks in Paris,” and some veteran bands who complain of beingmarginalized on television and radio because of their politics.
“Mostbands, for some reason, have become conformist and most music is justfun,” said Sergey Chernov, a music columnist for the St. PetersburgTimes newspaper who has followed Russian rock since the 1980s. “PTVPare unique in touching on political and social subjects. There areprobably two or three well-known bands who do this.”
What’s the difference between Deep Purple‘sIan Gillan and PTVP’s Alexei Nikonov? Well for starters, it seems thatGillan outright avoids politics while Nikonov goes headlong into them.Gillan, writing for the Times of London in February of 2008:
When we met Medvedev he had this stupid grin on his face because he was meeting his favourite band. We had a nice chat but we didn’t talk about politics. All of us in the band have such wildly different opinions on religion and politics that we never get into it.
Versus Nikonov, as described by the AFP:
The band is undoubtedly disrespectful to Putin, especially in its 2002 song “FSB Whore,” whose title refers to the KGB’s post-Soviet successor agency, which Putin once led.
The song’s lyrics are: “Don’t listen to anything! / He always lies to you! / Putin, Putin, Putin! / A pig will find filth everywhere!”
Whether due to censorship or simply the limited appeal of its raw punk rock, PTVP’s songs virtually never appear on television or radio. The band plays at clubs where it has a small but loyal following.
It hardly needs spelling out but I will do so anyway: How does President Medvedev reconcile his own affinity for black-listed music groups during Soviet times – Deep Purple being the most famous example – while now abiding, whether tacitly or overtly, a silencing of Russia’s returning punk scene? Wouldn’t such a huge fan of taboo music be expected to be an advocate for free musical expression?
More unanswered questions:
When the rebel becomes the establishment, to what extent are the challenges universal when it comes to remaining true to the movement’s original purpose?
DARE I EVEN bring up theories of permanent revolution?
Finally, let’s consider the music itself. Although the band’s music rarely appears on Russian television or radio, thankfully we have Youtube. If you search for PTVP, there is plenty of stuff that comes up. I haven’t watched all of their clips but posted below is my favorite so far. For those of you wondering about creds, I like a lot of things, but if you want to discuss this in Deep Purple terms, In Rock beats Machine Head any day of the week in my book. With that said, Dame i Gospodo, behold, PTVP: