GORKY PARK "S/T" (1989)
by Dana Brittingham
Cover: 9 Cosmonauts out of 10
Practically a stroke of marketing genius, there’s no way to mistake this cover as anything but that of "that 80’s Russian hard rock band." It looks kind of like the red Soviet flag. The Gorky Park logo intentionally bears resemblance to the sickle-and-hammer insignia of the old USSR. Complete with the band’s name in both roman and cyrillic fonts, this cover stands out.
Booklet: 9 Matryoshka Dolls out of 10
Again with both the English and Russian alphabets, this layout is really well thought-out. It smacks of old Brezhnev-era propaganda, kind of like a page ripped out of Pravda. The black and white band photo fits in with well this theme, and the variations of red and gold colors makes the inside cover striking. All lyrics, credits, recording notes and ass-kissing, err, thank-you lists are in here, so there are no complaints other than there could’ve been a few more band photos.
Songs: 4 Moskviches out of 10
The CD starts off with a bang! Or rather, the single "Bang," which you couldn’t turn on MTV without seeing the video for a few weeks following 1989’s Moscow Music Peace Festival. The song begins with an almost generic Russian-sounding chant, like that of the Cossacks march, but it’s not altogether a bad song. (At least not for the first dozen times you hear it.) But the second track, "Try To Find Me," takes an express trip to Siberia and from then on, the album never quite makes it out of the Gulag. Most of these songs are as exciting as Stalinist architechture. The worst track of all has to be the lame attempt at an anthem for Glasnost called "Peace In Our Time," written by your pals and mine, Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora! It stinks like an Uzbek millworker! There is a unique Russian twist on The Who’s "My Generation," and some of the guitar work on the last few tracks is quite unique. They’re good players and musicians – vocalist Nikolai Noskov has a pretty distinct Russian-accented hard rock voice – but this just isn’t the right batch of songs to really put this band over the top.
Comments: Here’s a little history lesson for the kids. A long time ago, back in the 80s, the mighty Soviet Union was America’s fearsome and mysterious nemesis on the other side of the northern hemisphere. Then Mikhail Gobachev came to power, instituted "Glastnost" and the perestroika program, and began relaxing the restrictions of the Soviet closed society, lifting bans on elements of western culture, especially rock music. Think of it as sort of like the movie Footloose, but with shitloads of 40-megaton intercontinental ballistic nuclear missles. It was during this time that Gorky Park began to materialize. Founded by guitarist Alexi Belov, fronted by Noskov, and named after Moscow’s largest park (remember the Lee Marvin movie? shame on you!), the band based its sound primarily on American and British hard rock bands of the genre. But they knew they couldn’t get very far in a land that to this day hasn’t grasped the concept of toilet paper, so the guys headed to the land of opportunity, where they were quickly befriended by the capitalist pigs Bon Jovi. It’s true that Bon Jovi helped to launch bands like Skid Row and Cinderella, but they must’ve been getting greedy by the time Jon and Richie got their bourgeouis hooks into poor Gorky Park. For a short time, it seemed like the Russians were the coolest new thing, with lots of video airplay and a slot at the Moscow Music Peace Festival alongside bands like the Scorps, Ozzy, the Crüe, Skid Row, and of course Bon Jovi (whom they later toured with). But America’s taste for Gorky Park and hard rock in general began to crumble like the Berlin Wall, and a behoven Gorky Park sulked back to Russia. Frontman Noskov split the band soon after, leaving Belov to continue with a new lineup. Noskov still tours around the Russian Federation as a solo artist, and Gorky Park has put out several albums with moderate success in Russia. If you’re a Sludgeaholic who speaks Russian (dobriy dyen, Oleg!), and if your browser supports non-western ISO-font sets, you can see what the band is up to at their website, www.gorkypark.ru