Akvarium & Boris Grebenshchikov: Greatest Hits

September 21, 2015

Akvarium5Hop This Train

Listening Post 13. The history of Russian rock music could fill volumes, but much of it can be summed up in a single word: Akvarium (Aquarium). Launched in 1972 by Boris Grebenshchikov and friends, the band—unapproved by Soviet culture authorities—initially played in apartments, recorded albums on homemade tapes and sometimes hitched rides to distant gigs on freight trains. As the Soviet Union and Russia evolved, Akvarium was a pacesetter, playing various rock genres (inspired by the Beatles and Dylan), folk, blues, reggae and much more. With a discography of more than 30 albums, this 21-track Greatest Hits collection is necessarily selective, but like Russia it covers a lot of territory. It opens with Train on Fire (Поезд в огне), a folk-rock epic about an army captain aboard a burning train who tells his troops that it’s time to quit a 70-year war and go home (video 1). The anthology ranges from the psychedelic rock of Electric Dog (Электрический пес) to Ancient Russian Blues (Древнерусская тоска, video 2), from the Russian/Irish drinking song Glasses (стаканы) to folk titles like Man from Kemerovo (Человек из Кемерова), Don’t Drink Wine, Gertruda (не пей вина гертруда) and The City (город). After more than 40 years, Akvarium is not only still active—Grebenshchikov is the only original band member—it is also embedded in Russia’s musical DNA. (Б. Г.)





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