It seems like everyone is worried about Russian troll farms interfering in elections these days. However, they should really be worried about the real threat from that vast and mysterious country: VulgarGradand their newest release The Odessa Job.
Okay, so VulgarGrad are a band from Australia and no one in the band is actually Russian, but the music they play – Russian prison songs and Perestroika era punk – would be at home drinking vodka with anyone from Minsk. The real danger in this music is not their subversive content, since very few Westerners speak Russian there’s little danger in their message spreading, it’s how much wicked fun you can have listening to the songs on this album.
The combination of great musicians; Andrew Tanner contrabass balalaika, Renato VaCirca drums, Ros Jone trombone, Adam Plerzchalski trumpet, Nara Demasson guitar and Phil McLeod piano and accordion; and the wondrous vocals of Polish/Australian actor Jacek Koman makes you want to laugh and cry in turn.
The music is rollicking, invigorating and makes you want to jump out of your skin with glee. Guaranteed to influence how you vote no question – that is if you can remember your name let alone who you’d want to vote for after listening to VulgarGrad.
While Koman handles the majority of the vocals, on this disc he’s also joined by guest singer Zulya Kamalova who takes the lead on “Oy, Mamochka” and Kostya the Sailor”. The interplay between the two voices is great. Kamalova has a lovely, clean and powerful sound while Koman appears to have been gargling with cheap vodka and even cheaper cigars for decades to achieve his amazing tonal quality.
Don’t get me wrong, Koman’s voice is an absolute perfect fit for this type of music. It’s harsh, rasping and one of the most expressive and emotive instruments you’ve ever heard. When he sings it’s as if each syllable of each word is being wrenched from his soul. You might not understand a single word he says, but you can’t help feel them.
While you might not understand their lyrics, the titles of the songs are fun to read and pique curiosity. What is “Solomon Pylar’s School of Ballroom Dancing” actually about? Was there somebody who ran a dance school for the guys doing time in the gulag? Ah the images that brings to mind!
The Odessa Job from VulgarGrad is one of those albums which are a sheer delight to listen to from beginning to end. In fact, we should be so lucky if this music influences our voting patterns – we’d at least have a lot more fun as the ship of state was being hot-wired and used for a bank job.
(Originally posted at Blogcritics.org as Music Review: VulgarGrad - The Odessa Job)
Richard Marcus is the author of two commissioned works published by Ulysses Press, editor in the books section of Blogcritics.org and contributor at Qantara.de. He has been writing since 2005 and his work has appeared in publications all over the world including the German edition of Rolling Stone Magazine.