7.24.2008

It Came From Rijeka: Hrvatska Punk

Just recently, we here at The Little Black Egg went on an excursion to Croatia. Naturally, we worked to improve our collection of ex-YU punk music while we were there. You see, Dear Reader, Slavic rock music is the shit. Anyone who tells you different is lying and should be immediately smashed because they are in the employ of the forces of mediocrity.

However, figuring out what to buy is tricky if you don’t speak Serbian or Croatian, since that’s what most websites and books about the YU Rock scene are going to be written in. Music sharity sites specializing in rock and punk from the Balkans (which you can find under the YU Rock heading on my link list), are very helpful. Most of this stuff is long out of print, and looks like it will stay that way.


Our first stop in Croatia was Rijeka, which is a port town and major transit hub. Many tourists to Croatia pass through Rijeka but don’t stop there. To be honest, Rijeka is somewhat less visually entrancing than, say, Croatia’s many historic medieval cities located on scenic beaches. But Rijeka has the advantage of not being overrun with German tourists doing that tourist thing where they dress as though they are prepared for a jungle safari, instead of a stroll down the main drag of some UNESCO protected wonderland. Later on in my trip, I saw lotsa Germans in Winnebagos. But I digress.

The point is, Rijeka was also the epicenter of one of Yugoslavia’s major punk scenes.

Should you find yourself in Rijeka, the record store to visit is called Dallas Records. My friend Nikola clued me in about this place. It stocks local and international stuff, and is also a record label that has been steadily reissuing a bunch of Rijekan bands.

When I asked the woman at the shop about Rijekan punk, she told me “Yes there have been many many groups from here, we have one of the best scenes in the world and now you will listen to all our bands.” And then she proceeded to take about 15 CDs out of their shrink wrap and play them for me over the in-store stereo system. She talked a little about the Rijekan scene, and how there used to be a lot of back and forth with the Belgrade scene before the war.


If my budget weren’t so limited, I would have gotten tons of stuff, but as it happened I ended up only getting a collection of Rijekan legends Termiti, garagey punks from 1979 with a killer organ sound. Their song “Vjeran Pas” is monster anthem that can’t be stopped. The Dallas Records Termiti collection is entitled Lp ploca vjeran pas: kompletan opus legendarne punk grupe! 17 skladbi, bonus live + multimedia. The multimedia component is a short documentary about the band, which includes footage of them from back in the day. The singer is off the hook, and at one point sings with a toilet over his head. Like, an actual toilet, worn like a hat.


Later on, half of Termiti morphed into Let 3, a cheerfully transgressive bizarro-rock band that’s still kicking today. The CD of Let 3 didn’t really tickle my fancy, but then again I don’t speak the language so I miss all the jokes. They’re real popular in Croatia and the surrounding environs.

While in Rijeka, I was told that Dallas Records was releasing a 3CD comp of all Rijekan punk bands but it wasn’t out yet. I was fucking pissed. I’m always a day late and a dollar short.

But then, about a week later, I was in Dubrovnik and got a line on another record store. I went there and got the same treatment—the guy in the store kept playing me music until I said I had to go. And even though I’d been warned that he probably wouldn’t want to talk about Serbian stuff since he got hit with a bunch of shrapnel during the shelling of Dubrovnik during the war, when I got there he put on a Pekinska Patka album right off the bat.

Best of all though, that 3CD set came out, and it is a real motherfucker. It’s called Rijecki Novi Val. (Novi Val is Croatian for New Wave.) This is one of the best collections of anything I ever acquired. Punk and New Wave were huge in the Balkans. I said it once, and I’ll say it again: the ex-YU countries are responsible for the some of the best punk music made anywhere.


For a communist country, Yugoslavia was comparatively relaxed when it came to personal freedoms. A Yugoslavian passport would allow one to not only journey to the West, but also to travel behind the Iron Curtain (Yugoslavia was non-aligned, and not part of the USSR).

Yugoslav bands played shows and released albums, often with government assistance. The big YU music label, Jugoton, had a roster that included punkers such as Electricni Orgazam, and Jugoton also released albums by foreign artists like Bowie and PiL for the Yugoslav market. Balkan groups got exposure to a wide array of rock music from around the world, but never lost their regional sound. And as I understand it, the authorities mostly welcomed the satire they got from Novi Val bands, considering it to be healthy for society or whatever. For an example, check out this video from the Belgrade band Idoli:


The Rijecki Novi Val Antologija contains 70 songs from about 1979–1989, ranging from more garagey, obviously UK and US influenced punk, to New Wave tracks, to industrial synth experimentation. The production varies on some of the tracks, which include tracks sourced from live records or demo tapes alongside studio recordings. Luckily, these were remastered at Laibach's Studio NSK in Ljubljana, and everything sounds good.

The Xenia track “Troje” sounds has a radio-ready Siouxsie and the Banshees kinda vibe, but is more Slavic than anything else. And some of the more out synth stuff, like Mrtvi Kanal, would trounce anything on those Messthetics comps. But for all the stuff on here I’d heard of, like Let 3 and Paraf (legendary Croat punkers who totally rip off the Ramones’ “Chinese Rocks” in their song “Rijeka”), there is twice is much I haven't. Take for instance Porko Dio, a band with one song on this comp—an 80 second long lo-fi synthpunk workout. I can’t find out anything about these guys (guy?) except that the song, “Riba” (which means “Fish”), is from 1988. Do they have an LP? A demo cassette? I don’t know. Just when I think I’ve figured something out, something else sends me searching.

You’d think that a 70 song compilation would be exhaustive, considering that it documents the punk scene in a town of less than 150,000 people, but the more I look the more there is to find out. I’ve pulled a dozen tracks from the comp and made a sample mixtape, which you can listen to if you find yourself so inclined.

I’m not entirely sure what the best way of procuring a physical copy of this compilation would be, since Dallas Records doesn’t seem to have a web site. But I highly recommend buying it as opposed to downloading it, not because I’m a goody-goody but because the boxed set comes with a big booklet of photos and text, and a bunch of inserts. The time has right for this music to see distribution in the United States.

Someone should get on that.

8 comments:

Matt said...

Hey John Anyblog,
I'm glad there are people like you out there, traversing the globe, uncovering the few bastions of regional music that are hitherto undiscovered by American ears. I wonder if anyone out there, possibly someone with connections to an American distributor like Forced Exposure, could swing a deal to release some Rijecki in the USA? Just a thought.

--A concerned citizen

Rick said...

Mr. Matt, thank you for your kind words.

I like your suggestion. Forced Exposure you say? I'll "put out some feelers" and see what turns up.

Sam said...

do you have contact info for Dallas Records?

Rick said...

Howdy Sam—

The info on the back of the Rijeka box is:

DALLAS RECORDS
Vrtlarska 3B
Zagreb, Hrvatska

They have a Web site too, which is like so:

www dot dallas dot hr

phone: 01 376 8423
email: dallas at dallas dot hr

Although, someone I know emailed them about getting records and didn't get a response, so be persistent. If you're in Rijeka, they have a store there—probably one in Zabreb too, although I never spent much time in Zagreb so I'm not sure.

Rick said...

Also, Sam, I have links to a bunch of YU Rock blogs on this page—tons of people are sharing out of print ex-Yu stuff. The Rijecki Novi Val box, though, I'd suggest buying if possible–its got a ton of photos, and the remastering job was really good.

Stuart said...

hey Rick,

i was searching for a song called Riba! which my croatian fiance always talks about as being her favourite song from when she was a kid... my search led me to your blog... i was wondering if you might know where i could listen to or buy the song Riba... which i presume is by Porko Dio...

Cheers

Stu

Stanislav Bozanic said...

Guys!!!

I can't believeit!!!!

My name is Stanko! I am the singer from Porko dio!!!!

First what I have to say is that your text is beautifull!
I can explain few things. Porko dio was band from Rijeka, 1984-1989, I came 1987. We sounded like Butthole surfers. We recorded demo tape 1988, 4 channel live recording in basement. The day after recording, guitar player, Josip Maršić, went to serve YU army (it was still Yugoslavia). In the meantime I formed hc band Black and Decker. Bass player from Porko dio, Alex Červar, start to play bass with very known noise band S.ex.A.(Sedativ ex Apoteka). When Josip came back, we spend some thime in garage but we mixed all our bands with first drumer from Let 3, Nenad Tubin, and form Regoč, also very known noise band! That was 1989. Regoč record one record: Just so. After that, I moved to Amsterdam and formed Very Expensive Porno Movie. We recorded many lp-ies! Josip from Porko dio also played guitar in VEPM, singer from Regoč (Medo) and guitar player from Black and Decker also sung in VEPM. If you wanna listening all Porko dio demo, I will put those days on Youtube, all material :)
By the way, I founded this, Josip made hand-made Cd :)

http://www.discogs.com/artist/1792161-Porko-Dio


If you need more information, pleas contact me here.

By,

Stanko

Rick said...

Stanko!

So great to hear from you! God, I can't believe that it's been seven years since I wrote this.

I would love to hear any additional Porko Dio stuff (or anything from related bands)--I also have a ton of questions. Could you contact me at

we.here.at.the.little.black.egg at gmail dot com ?


-Rick