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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Glasnost dinosaurs rockin' again

n the long and traumatic history of Russian rock'n'roll there have been a few years of undisputed happiness and excitement. Between 1986 and 1990 cult underground rock bands were released from their cultural basement, enjoying huge commercial success with thirsty audiences and becoming the darlings of the media while often performing abroad under the glasnost banner. At that time official Soviet pop had a somewhat bad name and kept a relatively low profile, while the new pop and dance -- the Bogdan Titomirs et al -- had not yet appeared. Stadiums, sports arenas and airtime almost exclusively belonged to the likes of Kino, Aquarium, Alisa, Brigada S, Nautilus Pompilius, Televisor, Va-Bank and other tough uncompromising rock bands who were spreading their songs of truth and frustration across the nation. That incredible rise was followed by a quick and dramatic downfall. The angry antitotalitarian message gradually became less and less relevant, glasnost hype in the West was over, and an overdose of rock concerts led to subsequent public apathy. Trapped in a rag-to-riches-and-back-to-rags situation, and ideologically disorientated and artistically inflexible, most Russian rock groups fell into semi-oblivion, their names replaced in polls and charts by shallow pop and rap acts. Russian rock also suffered after the deaths of several major figures -- Victor Tsoy of Kino, Mike Naumenko of Zoopark, bards Alexander Bashlachev and Yanka Diagileva. (Incidentally, a very similar thing happened to the first wave of American rock'n'roll, after artists like Buddy Holly and Eddie Cochran were killed in accidents.) This year, after a period of decay and misery, the class of '88 is attempting a major comeback. Some prerequisites are there: as in the old days, young people in Russia are generally frustrated and unhappy (although much busier); in big cities there are now networks of live clubs where bands can play regularly; new record labels are releasing plenty of new and archive materials by rock artists. Russian rockers' much lamented identity crisis also seems to have been overcome. The unhip and annoying social and political awareness has been dropped, and bands are turning to classic rock'n'roll topics -- sex, drugs and violence, with a touch of '80s nostalgia. In the past couple of weeks Moscow's seen plenty of rock comebacks. Garik Suchachev, formerly the front man of Brigada S, presented his new supergroup The Untouchables. which includes acting members of X-Roads and Black Obelisk. Strongly inspired by American rhythm & blues and Doors-like pathos, they start their set with "The Road to Heaven" -- apparently a hymn to psychedelia presented with typical Haight-Ashbury excitement. Televisor, one of the best glasnost-era bands that has kept a very low profile in the past few years, played a stunning concert at the Indiuki festival. Based in Petersburg and led by Misha Borzykin, an impressive showman and one of the most intelligent people on the Russian rock scene, Televisor is definitely the name to watch. Nautilus Pompilius is busy promoting its new album "Titanic" and showing its return to old form -- which was never really rockist but sensuous and elegant pop. Aquarium, the ultimate boring old farts of Russian hippy music, will be back in Moscow in mid-May to present its new LP, "Sands of St. Petersburg." DDT are due to play in May at Olympic stadium -- a very risky venture indeed, but if the good old rockin' days are back, why not try? Considering that Alisa and Va-Bank played here last week at an overcrowded hall with 3,000 people, while another thousand couldn't get in, the marketing situation looks promising for rockers. Inspired by the revival wave, even Voskresenye (Sunday) -- a cult Moscow band who haven't played together for God knows how many years -- are getting together again. Pity about young groups, though. In the shadow of waking dinosaurs they have an even lesser chance of recognition.