Bungalow Bums: Garage Rock from the Distant Edge of an Empire

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The Bungalow Bums are from Omsk in southern Siberia, a city founded in the 18th century as a military fort to defend Russia's borders from all manner of non-European dangers. In short, it's a very long way from Moscow: 1,700 miles, to be exact. If you want the capital's music business to hear you at that distance, much noise will be needed. The Bungalow Bums try very hard to keep the decibel level high, cultivating the kind of racket they brand as "one of the most interesting and complex phenomena on the Siberian indie scene."

The man below certainly looks aghast.

They've been around since 2006, when they originally cranked out songs under the direct influence of britpop and US rock. With time, however, their interests and influences have moved backwards through the history books. Their listed idols on the MySpace page begin with the time-tested threesome of The Stooges, MC5, and the New York Dolls. Somewhere in this post, therefore, the term garage rock is bound to pop up.  And indeed the band tell us, almost immediately: "We soon developed a love for classic garage rock from the 1960s in all its forms."

We soon developed a love for classic garage rock from the 1960s in all its forms.

Nonetheless, they've tried hard to draw a clear and lasting line between admiration and adulation. "We've refused to tie ourselves to any one style or period.  We stick to an experimental approach to songwriting. Our music isn't boxed in by the preexisting concepts of a particular sound or style. All the band members have equal rights in the compositional process. Everybody plays their part of the song the way they see it personally. That's what gives our band the status of some unique musical cocktail or other."

The most recent adventures in this ongoing experimentation have been defined as moving towards noise- and/or stoner-rock, which is a fair description of the four tracks in this post. Together they constitute the brand-new release, "Jenny Feels Great." It can be downloaded from several locations, including the band's page at V kontakte.

Simplicity is the name of the game throughout this EP: "The band isn't striving for especially complicated or carefully-fashioned melodies. The music of the Bungalow Bums is based upon a wholly conscious minimalism... but we still keep the sound quality at a level to match Western bands! We've give it all we've got on stage, too!"

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"Everything's based on a crazy energy, together with vocals pushed to breaking point, like a hoarse scream. There's all kinds of things going on when they band play live, too: bared nerves and naked emotion keep the music driving forward. They're the main elements of The Bungalow Bums' work."

These may sound like universal qualities, irrespective of one's address or language, but the band does see a certain specificity to their locale, one that feeds directly into their music. It also explains why they sing in English.

Through that second language, The Bungalow Bums "try to link South-Western Siberia with the northern states of America. They try to compare their hometown of Omsk with Detroit or other cities of Michigan. The group tries to translate the American sense of unbelievable tedium, of having nothing to do. It's a neverending sense of doziness, a particular kind of peripheral trance, even. The only thing that can break that spell is the most driven, almost desperate kind of rock and roll."

Special photography captures the moment below when the local trance goes head-to-head with garage rock.

It's a fight to the death.

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Omsk is a logical place for these themes, having suffered more that its fair share of corporate greed, swindles, and insitutional fraud. When big money came to this oil town after the end of the Soviet Union, local culture had a hard time dealing with the speed of social change.  Mafia involvement at all levels of business didn't help, either. These enduring problems, by the band's own admission, led to a certain kind of hero in their songs. "In the good old traditions of American blues, our characters are the kind of people who try scrounging their way through life. They drink heavily and fight in roadside bars. Their hearts have been broken - long ago - by women in faraway towns."

The misery continues: "Our characters abuse the kind of substances that people shouldn't be playing around with. They almost die from their own insignificance... but they never get too depressed." Knowing that such people really do inhabit the streets of Omsk - and many other towns - our four musicians make a direct appeal to their fellow countrymen (and women) to join a digital community of suffering. "If these kind of songs - and their heroes - are near and dear to you, too... if you're ready to face all kinds of nastiness and indecency... if you go crazy for really rough 'n' ready rock music, then the songs of The Bungalow Bums are just what you've been looking for!"

One of the most popular statues in the band's hometown celebrates the efforts of sanitation workers, shown below. In a city that continues its "rough 'n' ready, down 'n' dirty" musical traditions, it seems only fitting that a symbol of endless clean-up should have a place of honor.

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Audio

Bungalow Bums – Body In The Trunk
Bungalow Bums – Bungalow Bum
Bungalow Bums – Jenny Feels Great
Bungalow Bums – Rip It Up (I Don't Love You)

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