Original band name: Гражданская оборона
Yegor Letov, who died in 2008 from a heart attack, was one of the key figures of Russian alternative music. In the late 90s his cult was so big that he could have been considered a mainstream outsider (or an underground star, if you prefer). Concerts with his main band, Grazhdanskaya Oborona (Civil Defence), attracted thousands every night.
Born and raised in Omsk, Siberia, Letov started a project called Posev in 1982, when he was only 17. He was the singer and guitarist, while his friend Konstantin Ryabinov played bass guitar. After two years they changed name in Grazhdanskaya Oborona. In 1985 two home-made tapes, titled "Optimizm" and "Poganaya molodezh'", were released in the illegal underground market, with their mix of noise rock, post-punk, and anarchic lyrics.
The approach was different from the pop-rock school of Saint Petersburg, which preferred metaphorical lyrics about freedom. Letov was direct and brutal, as he didn't like compromises.
Unfortunately, the authorities feared his critical mood against the Soviet system, and at the end of 1985 he was forced for four months into a psychiatric hospital, while Ryabinov was conscripted in the military service.
After his release, Letov realized that he was alone. Without Ryabinov, he couldn't find anyone brave enough to play with him. From this moment to the beginning of 1989 Grazhdanskaya Oborona was basically a one-man band.
Recorded in the harshest moment of solitude, when only the punk band Pik i Klakson gave Letov some support by providing good instruments, "Myshelovka" is regarded today as a classic. A deranged abrasiveness flows through every fragment of the tracklist. The guitar sound is sandpaper, Yegor's voice is as raw as asphalt, but despite the low fidelity the result is majestic.
Letov had a natural gift in taking advantage of Russian language malleability, thus giving musicality even to his craziest stuff. You simply can't resist this heroic, controversial, angry man and his tempestous sing-along slivers, ranted with an unusual sense of melody.
P.S. Letov was one of the most prolific musicians that I know. As Grazhdanskaya Oborona he released fifteen albums between 1987 and 1990, while at the same time he was making music under four other names (Armiya Vlasova, Yegor i Opizdenevshie, Kommunizm, Tsyganyata i Ya s Ilyicha). For this reason I will post only his most celebrated albums.
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