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(85 min DVD / Poseidon Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Melting 2. Fence's Feelings 3. Cowboy Song 4. Avalanche 5. Julius 6. Mornight 7. Jessica The Grey Whale 8. A Bell 9. Blinded 10. Fear 11. Phone 12. Halfway 13. Sopot 14. Lazybone 15. Hollywood 16. Eye 17. Face 18. Weight LINEUP: Miroslav Wanek - guitar; piano; vocals Radek Podvesky - lead guitar; b/v Milos Albrecht - bass; b/v Pter Bohm - drums; b/v Martin Velisek - brushes
Prolusion. UZ JSME DOMA (pronounces as "oosh-smeh-doughma", UJD hereafter), a band from the Czech Republic, was formed in 1985 by singer, guitarist and keyboard player Miroslav Wanek. I had to visit their website to learn that the band's name translates as "We're Home Now", but has in fact an idiomatic meaning "there we go" (which in turn has several idiomatic meanings in English), and that they have six studio, two live albums and two DVD releases behind them. In other words, this DVD, "In Tokyo", is my first encounter with their work.
Analysis. Being dressed in white hair-shirts with matching white skullcaps, the five UJD members all look very much like old-testament personages who've stepped right out of the Bible's pages, suddenly finding themselves playing rock instruments in a small Japanese bar at the dawn of the third millennium Anno Domini, before a crowd of 50 or so. One of the participants, Martin Velisek, is not a musician though. He is painting a picture throughout the concert, and the resulting work, while being called "Rabbit in Spaceship", resembles much more of a carrot with openings than a rocket. Is this because carrots are rabbits' most favorite meal? Well, I am not well versed in painting, but anyway I far prefer the musical component of this show, meaning these guys are indeed showmen, in their own way. Whether Miroslav Wanek sings alone or in harmony with other three musicians (which happens far more than not), the vocal picture always suggests a mixture of clownery, buffoonery and propaganda, therefore automatically bringing to mind the French RIO outfit Etron Fou Leloublan. The music as such, i.e. in its instrumental perspective, is not RIO though, and while UJD assert their work is beyond comparison, I don't think this is completely new ground. Without fear of seeming heretical in my reasoning, I note that apart from the cited example, the compositions include prog-metal influences from Voivod and King Crimson, while also referencing U2 - especially in the rhythmically most pronounced movements. Some of the eighteen pieces performed are almost instantly accessible (such as the first two numbers, Melting and Fence's Feelings, and also the fifth one, Julius, all reminding me much of a U2 who've become hooked on complex time signatures), the others are highly intricate on levels, but what unites all of them is their impetuous, punk rock-like energy and power and that, despite their numerous twists and turns, even the most eclectic ones all have a stable basis of composition and arrangement that enterprisingly excludes any jazz improvisations. Beginning with the sixth piece, Mr. Wanek switches over from guitar to piano much more frequently, the music getting more and more complicated. Later on, I was more than once reminded of Voivod's queer, pleasingly angular Prog-Metal, though I haven't forgotten that the Canadians have always recognized King Crimson as their primary inspiration. All in all, my only discontent about UJD concerns their vocals, which is certainly not because they sing in Czech (except for Hollywood whose lyrics are in English), but is because they just aren't too gifted at singing, unlike the same Etron Fou Leloublan. On the other hand however, I realize that, well, their only weak point is in the great majority of cases well compensated for by their brilliant instrumental performance.
Conclusion. Back in the '70s and the '80s, no one other foreign country was so widely represented in the USSR music stores as the Czech Republic (formerly part of Czechoslovakia). There are tens of LPs by Czech performers in my collection, many of which I regard as a real classic of the genre. To cut a long story short, I find UJD to be one of the most significant bands to have come out from there. Recommended.
VM: September 22, 2007
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