I can’t go 5 minutes since the 2016 presidential election ended without hearing about the Russians. The Russians hacked the election, the Russians didn’t hack the election. The Russians manipulate Trump, the Russians don’t manipulate Trump. The Russians….you get the message, you follow the news.
Then it occurred to me, whatever happened to those Russian Punks Pussy Riot, who warned of the growing influence of Putin and became the darlings of the American Music Industry? Before I give you the answer, we’re going to compare them to another set of Russian Punks, the Svetlanas.
In 2015, I came across a clever, high energy video called “I Must Break You” by the Svetlanas. Billed as the Most Dangerous Band in the World, here’s their “backstory:”
In the seventies, the Svetlanas worked for KGB, the main secret police organization in the Soviet Union.
They were spies, informers, fighting agents to whom was assigned the task of stealing the military secrets of the most powerful nations in the world.
In 1977, their cover was as a punk band in the United States, a flawed amplifier triggered a 3000V discharge: the four members of the band, hit by the violent electric shock, went into a coma.
The hospitalization was immediate, such was the decision of KGB to steal their bodies freeze and hibernate them, in order to preserve the secrecy of the mission. The Svetlanas were transported inside cryogenic rooms, on a merchant ship bound for USSR, but, during the navigation, the ship mysteriously sank in the ocean.
Nobody knows what really happened to Olga, Bazuka, Jurij and Vasilij for the following thirty years……– Dying Scene
Now I think the Svetlanas may have taken some, uh, creative liberties with their backstory, but that’s a moot point. They may or may not be banned from Russia, but what is clear is that they’re real musicians and are clearly not fans of Vladimir Putin. We will circle around to this point in a few moments….
On February 21, 2012, a group of masked women entered the Cathedral of Christ the Savior Orthodox Church in Moscow and began performing the song “Mother of God, Drive Putin Away, ” scaring the crap out of the Soviet-era pensionaires. They were promptly arrested and Western Media picked up their plight and framed their arrest as Putin being a maniac, rounding up and jailing musicians. Musicians such as Madonna, Bjork, Paul McCartney and Yoko Ono all leapt to their defense. After their trial, where 3 member of the band were convicted of premeditated hooliganism, even Barack Obama himself voiced his displeasure with their sentencing.
So last week, I went to iTunes to listen to some Pussy Riot music, now that they’re all out of jail. Kind of a ‘whatever happened to…’ curiosity. 3 songs came up. That can’t be right, I thought. First song up was about the American election called Make America Great Again in 2016. Okay, not sure what’s going on here. I assumed that Pussy Riot had signed to Maverick (Madonna’s Label) or to One Little Indian and was bringing the world their message. No. There is no Pussy Riot ‘discography.’ Instead of a punk rock band, they are Protest Artists who sing. Now what’s the difference? Great Question. Let’s take the Cathedral of Christ the Savior example. Pussy Riot went into a church, unannounced, started filming and screaming and confusing the worshippers. Think of the same case, but use an obscure metal band in America with no released music. What would happen if, say, they broke into St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan and started screaming and jumping around on the alter and wouldn’t leave when security approached them? They would be arrested for trespassing. You know what would happen then? RT would probably write a story about how America is quelling free expression. Then, 5 years later, the band still hadn’t released any albums despite half a decade of free publicity?
So Pussy Riot is a band with no songs, but a movie and videos? Even their 2012 ‘performance’ was sloppy, even by punk standards. (And I say this first hand because my last article included GG Allin and Wesley Willis). The mainstream media had tricked me yet again. What really happened was the media had propped up Russian leftists against Putin, who then overreacted to set an example because that’s what Putin does. Who’s in Pussy Riot, who’s not? Who’s at the Amnesty International 2014 concert, who’s not? Facts are not forthcoming, simply the prisms of the writers covering the story. After watching the ‘Mother of God’ video, over and over, I’m fairly confident that the music and vocals were added AFTER the event took place and music is not what Pussy Riot is about.
…which brings us back to the Svetlanas. A very real band with a real back catalog. The ferociousness of lead singer Olga is rarely matched in the history of punk. She owns the stage and will step on your throat if you cross her. During their last tour they played with Nick Oliveri of Queens of the Stone Age Fame and I’m thoroughly convinced that the band is simply waiting for the right riff to carry them into crossover success. Since 2010, the Svetlanas have released 3 albums, Svetlanas (2010), Tales From the Alpha Bridgade (2013), and Naked Horse Rider (2015), and a half dozen singles, including a split single with the Dwarves in 2016. Where do they perform? In seedy clubs across the world, driving in a beat up old van, like punks for 40 years before them have been doing. Their label? The independent Altercation Records out of Austin, Texas. Where is the media coverage for the Svetlanas? Nowhere, because their performances don't fit into the agenda of the media. Most media outlets are not about reporting on good punk bands, only pretend bands that fit a certain narrative.
And Madonna? I think she’s too busy with her divorce to notice more than one artist who isn’t in her mirror.