Leningrad (Ленинград)

Genre: ska, funk

Leningrad on stage at Piknik Afishy in 2008

Leningrad remains one of the most notorious names in Russian rock, even if the days of performing secret gigs to escape official censure are long behind Sergei Shnurov and the band. Oddly, though, while the narrative of a band staging guerilla shows to confound the dead hand of the authorities is a well-known Soviet-era archetype, it was post-Soviet Moscow, under the governance of mayor Yury Luzhkov, who declared Leningrad personae non grata due to the band’s expletive-strewn lyrics, sexual themes and general irreverence. Ultimately, though, Leningrad’s popularity ensured venues were willing to risk booking them for shows promoted by word of mouth, and the policy was quietly reversed for fearing of making City Hall seem ridiculous and impotent. In the meantime Shnur transformed himself from enfant terrible to a kind of holy fool of contemporary Russian culture.

So these days, it’s no great shock to get the chance to join thousands of Leningrad fans in the city’s larger arenas, chanting ‘Prick! Prick! Prick!’ in a cathartic release of semi-staged anger. Or, depending on your preference, catch them at a corporate party – the group played for the 15thanniversary of anti-virus company Kaspersky Lab in July 2012. The greatest threat to all this seemed to come in 2010 when Shnur himself announced the end of the group and the birth of Rubl, a new, harder-edged act to reflect the end of Russia’s decade-long oil-boom party. Within 18 months, though, Leningrad was back on stage and back in the recording studio: the commercial value of the band was simply too great to ignore.

Musically, it’s all good raucous party stuff – something like a Russian version of Madness, with the same funky, horn-heavy sound. Lyrically, it shies away from the kind of philosophizing which makes much Russian music difficult to absorb – even when acknowledging a debt to the great Kino, the band’s take on “Gruppa Krovi” is far more about the music than the iconic perestroika-era rebellion embodied by Viktor Tsoi. Meanwhile, the signature “SKA” has become the goal horn music for St. Petersburg’s ice hockey club SKA.

website in Russian

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