Stuffography Dyusha Romanov: Shamrock Songs


Дюша Романов: Песня о трилистнике

Dyusha Romanov: Shamrock Songs

Real Records 2001


by Dzhon & Dji

Трилистник, for those not in the know, is the band formed by Andrei "Dyusha" Romanov—flautist extraordinaire and all-around nice guy—after the original Akvarium disbanded. Unfortunately, Akvarium is no exception to the Second Banana Rule that applies to defunct bands throughout the history of rock 'n' roll: sidemen, no matter how skilled, rarely go on to do great things on their own. So far from disproving the rule, Shamrock Songs is a classic example of what goes wrong when that engaging guy behind the amp steps to center stage.

Given the Celtic influences in early Akvarium and the band's monicker, one might have expected Dyusha's solo work to build on the folk-tinged sound of such classic Akvarium-ana as 10 Arrows. One would be wrong. Indeed, if there's one Stuffography item this reminds us of more than any other it's Radio Silence...and that's just wrong, wrong.

Since this is a compilation album, however—a "greatest hits," of sorts, though none of the songs were hits, and greatness is in sadly short supply—it's worth taking a look at all the individual tracks. (We find ourselves shuddering to think what the "not so good" tracks of Трилистник might sound like...)

Example 1Sailor's Silence: Yo-ho-ho-ho-ho-ho-ho-ho. It's the Kapitan (from 2 Captains II, p'raps) and he's come carrying a bottle of rum. Can the panties be far behind? Not if this mad-cap sea shanty—something in the vein of the Pogues take on "Greenland Whale Fisheries"—has anything to say about it. But, for God's sake, somebody please shut these sailors up.

Nevskiy Prospect: Holy Paisley and Patchouli, Batman! The Grateful Dead rises yet again! You think I'm kidding, but hand on my Hart, with its chick-a-boom drums and cymbals, its loping Lesh-ish bass-line, its incongruous electric guitar solos, and its Very Jerry sort of mumble-crooned vocal, "Nevskii Prospect" sounds like the oddest detour on the world's longest, strangest trip. Pass the Finn-Weed, dude!

Snakes: We really like this one. In the first place you can never go wrong with Jew's Harps. In the second place you can never go wrong with snakes. In fact, what more could you want? But if you do want more, you Ungrateful Wretch, you have lyrics that are reminiscent of V. Tsoi in their less-is-more pungency, you have all sorts of random Radio Africa-esque sound effects, and you have the closest this album comes to a rollicking good time.

Train: Tchooo! Tchooo! Off we chug on a jaunty, acoustic-guitar driven ditty in steady 4/4 time. Nevertheless we decree that all involved should be exiled to Jambandistan—where Jerry Garcia is surely the "mere Emir"—for inflicting a 6 minute and 45 second opus upon us that totally fails to develop beyond its (fine) 2 minute and 40 second premise. Too many coal cars, too little steam, baby.

Track 5: OK, now they've actually gone and called a song "The Grateful Dead (-guy)," but (nyuck, nyuck, nyuck) this one sounds little or nothing like them. The mystery here—well, one mystery anyway—is why a guy who played all the groovy flute on all the groovy early Akvarium flute tunes would EVER FREAKING CONSIDER hitting the "flute" button on his CASIO. Maybe there's a wind controller in there somewhere, but that's no excuse. I picture some crazy Irish ex-pat passing the bong to Dyusha. "Yeah, dude, Casio is traditional shit where I come from."

Example 2Ignatius Song Never, ever, get drunk and depressed in the company of a synthesizer, a midi controller, and a copy of Cakewalk.

Me, Only Me: OK, OK, OK resurrect the Grateful Dead if you really must, but please leave Flock of Seagulls right where they are, eating the green baloney on the Rubbish Tip of History.

What Only the Wind Knows: Never, ever, get stoned silly in the company of a synthesizer, a midi controller, and a copy of Cakewalk. And—ouch!—is that Mr. Chucho Merchan I hear on the Casio-beats? Make it stop.

I Gave You the Spring: And you gave me a headache. Dirge-like vocals alternate with goofy Kuryokhin-esque keyboards, but without the synth-master's spark of originality.

And it gets worse, boys and girls, with Boys and Girls and My Airplane, which take soulless vocals, satanically cheezy New Wave keyboard effects, and three-chord progressions to new depths. Somewhere in the middle we lost Dji, who fled the room to numb his pain beneath a bourbon poultice. Dzhon, protected by a permanent layer of ingested liquor and lead, suffered on with...

Chip Off the Block: Phew! That's a bit better. The midi is dead! Long live bass guitars and mandolins! But my goodness does this remind me of something...I'm talking tune, bridges, solos the works. But what? Something off the first Led Zeppelin ablum, I think. In any case, it wins a few points for style but zip for originality, a chip off the block indeed.

You're the Wind: The accordion, which has been AWOL since the first track, returns here to some effect, but not quite enough to carry the day. Still, unlike tracks 5-11, say, there's nothing here to make a Bodhisattva cringe.

Tell Me Who's King: Similar to one of Akvarium's occasional (annoying) flights of Arthurian fancy...I'll pass, thanks, but at least the lead flute sounds genuine this time around.

I Went Into the Forest: Some Spanish guitar adds a little color to what would otherwise be a bland, paint-by-numbers folk-rock track.

My Mind is Dead: Dyusha covers the Ur-Akvarium chestnut and—whaddayaknow—acquits himself splendidly. In fact, this has to be the best version of this song we've ever heard: jazzy, groovy, some trippy, long-lost Tom Waits tune. If that alone is a good enough reason for you to buy this album, however, seek professional help immediately. Yes, Dzhon owns the album, but he didn't have the benefit of this review pre-purchase—and he is far beyond all help.

The Crossroads: In a slightly cynical marketing ploy, this last track is BG himself doing an ancient, very obscure little Akvarium tune (once translated by Elizaveta for these pages) seemingly so that Real Records can tout his participation in the project very prominently on the album cover ("Special track by BG"). It's a fine song in the Dylanesque Blue Album tradition (having been penned around that time) and is an appropriate remembrence of a departed friend, but it, too, isn't nearly enough to make up for ghosts of wretched New Wavers past who dominate the album's endless middle stretch.

In sum, this is why God invented mp3s. See if you can track down "Snakes," "My Mind is Dead" and "The Crossroads," but leave the rest of this to us. We are professionals. We can very nearly handle it.