There are two Ukrainian bands that are not quite from the Ukraine fighting for my attention today. Every time I decide to focus on one, the other one sticks up for itself, so I've plumped for double the value, double the bands.
The Ukrainians (the clue's in the name) were something of a John Peel-led side-project phenomenon. In one of the Wedding Present's numerous Peel sessions, they drafted in (at the behest of guitarist Peter Solowka) a friend, the Legendary Len who added some scratchy folk violin to a session they themed as Ukrainian. Out of this was born the Ukrainians. From a country that is possibly the most depressing in the world was born this raucous, joyous folk-pop, revelling in it's nationality and it's incongruity. The album, Ukrainski Vistupi V Johna Peela sold 70,000 copies and was recently released as part of a John Peel sessions boxset.
In typically understated fashion, the NME declared, on their first single release, "this is POP and it blows your trousers off!". Oi Divchino was Single Of The Week, then the logical next step followed: a Smiths covers EP.
Actually, it makes perfect sense. The Wedding Present were always something of a Smiths-with-rock kind of band, so why not go down the Smiths-with-Ukrainian route? It works really quite well, as you can tell by visiting their site for a number of ace downloads. The fun ones I'll post here though, these are the Smiths ones. check out the Prince EP as well for, you guessed it, Prince covers.
The Ukrainians - Koroleva Ne Pomerla (The Queen Is Dead)
The Ukrainians - Spivaye Solovey (What Difference Does It Make?)
The other act I've been meaning to post is the fantastic Gogol Bordello. These are led by the wonderfully-'tached Ukrainian Eugene Hütz, who moved with his parents to the US at age 14 to escape Chernobyl. The band describe themselves as gypsy-punk, a fantastically accurate assessment, mixing as they do frenetic, wild Eastern European gypsy music with it's flailing violins and unique vocal styles, with the pure rock'n'roll energy of punk rock, and more than that punk rock done in a far more punk manner than any of their contemporaries. Swingin' Utters, Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphys have all tried mixing folk influences with punk rock, with wildly varying degrees of success, but none have the gusto or delivery of Gogol Bordello. This is a band I'm dying to see live - all I've seen thus far is a wonderful Jools Holland performance (as follows) - as they look a whole barrelload of fun. These tracks are from their highly recommended album, Underdog World Strike: Gypsy Punk.
Gogol Bordello - Start Wearing Purple
Gogol Bordello - Sally
Buy Ukrainian music here
Buy The Ukrainians/Gogol Bordello/Wedding Present
Tags: Ukraine; World Cup; Ukrainians; Wedding Present; Gogol Bordello;
CIA Factbook: Ukraine
Photo by Kay_O