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25 Mar 2016

Desert Rock Chronicles: A Trailblazing Russian Punk Band Gets a Little Help From a Desert-Rock Icon

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The Svetlanas. The Svetlanas. Dean Karr

At a time in world history when relations between the governments of Russia and the United States are strained, a strong alliance has developed between American gutter punks The Dwarves and Russian hard-core punksters the Svetlanas.

Blag Dahlia, the veteran punk-pop troubadour who has guided the Dwarves through three decades and a dozen albums (and whom we talked to recently for this space), may have met his match in Russian songstress Olga Svetlanas, who prefers flipping the bird to waving the peace sign, and spews profanities with one eye cocked like it’s nobody’s business.

At its best, punk rock challenges social norms, pisses on convention, steps on value systems and rebels against authority. Religious groups and government agencies that set standards and practices drop their jaws and point their fingers in contempt of the vile, low-brow art form, which throws the bird and asks, “Who’s watching the kids while mom’s at work, and dad’s off fucking his secretary?” When you think about a world in which millions of people are being bombed by planes sent by one government or another for reasons none of us understand, why shouldn’t music flip society a bird?

If you are firmly rooted in a certain belief system, a bunch of gutter punks aren’t gonna chip away at anything you value. However, it’s the extreme form of street poetry put to music that allows frustrated youth to vent and boldly expresses what is. I know a lot of punk-rock school teachers; they may listen to Rancid at home, but you can trust them with your fourth-graders. Can you necessarily say that about your Catholic priest?

Punk rock in its truest form shines a flood light on what is: promiscuity, violence, social unrest, inequality, addiction, fascism, corruption and crime. Punk rock doesn’t need to lie, because it doesn’t give a shit what you think. Something honest and refreshing lies with in that ideology. Punk rock just is—and these two groups of punk-rock extremists don’t shy away from these topics; they revel in them.

Svetlanas is a Russian hard-core punk rock band fronted by the tightly wound, foul-mouthed songstress Olga Svetlanas. The group recently joined forces with desert-rock icon and former Queens of the Stone Age bassist Nick Oliveri of the Dwarves before winding up a U.S. tour in Texas. The band is a well-oiled music machine, cranking out tight and riveting compositions that rile up audiences around the world. Punk-rock ideology is alive and well within the framework of the group’s music. Olga’s lyrical themes are chock-full of violence and vulgarity, and she brings them to life with confrontational live performances filled with plenty of punk-rock aggression. Perhaps even more shocking because of her gender are videos like “I Must Break You,” depicting a man bound and gagged while suffering a Russian Mafia debriefing. It’s Olga’s hand holding the gun to his head.

Olga has earned the respect of peers in a predominately male music genre. Perhaps the most outspoken and controversial female purveyor of punk, she is backed by a powerhouse of a band that lays out retro-hardcore. One notable difference between a Svetlanas record and a hard-core punk album from the ’80s is the refined guitar tones—something producer Blag Dahlia gets right in the studio every time. It’s abrasive music with refined guitar tones allowing for nuances and tightly packaged finished pieces.

The band has attracted the support of some of punk rock’s most notorious characters, including Blag Dahlia and Nick Oliveri. The band has released two full lengths onAltercation Records, with several singles and splits all available on the website. A Svetlanas/Dwarves split is wrapped in a cover with a fully nude woman bound and gagged.

Blag Dahlia produced the Svetlanas latest full length, Naked Horse Rider,which features a vocal collaboration by Olga and Blag titled “Revenge.” They released the song as a single on colored vinyl—a sexy slab of white of melted wax, dripping in red, honoring Record Store Day. While in Southern California, the Svetlanas went into the studio with Dahlia to record a forthcoming album (not yet named) and enlisted the help of Oliveri.

Check out the website and the music of this outspoken, kick-ass hard core punk band. The Svetlanas will blow you away.

Read more from Robin Linn, including an expanded version of this story, at www.desertrockchronicles.com.

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