Man Bites Dog: Petty Crime and Patience in Moscow

This band is hard to track down, despite the fact they're based in Moscow.  Last year, for example, when they appeared at the Avant festival, even the organizers seemed a little surprised that the trio had surfaced.

"Despite considerable difficulties, Man Bites Dog have been - and remain - a symbol of the kind of rock music that's done with good taste.  They've come back to Avant with some new songs!  In anticipation of their gig, you can listen to a few of them online."

Despite considerable difficulties, Man Bites Dog have been - and remain - a symbol of the kind of rock music that's done with good taste...

Which begs the question:  where are they the rest of the time?  A few small articles scattered around the web sketch their beginnings, but current news is devilishly hard to come by.  For a band that some journalists refer to as "knights of the Russian indie scene," they're extraordinarily elusive!  The absence of a recording deal can hardly help.

This dearth of information leaves us running into images of other men biting other dogs.  They're not especially helpful.

Here's what we do know. The band's three members are Kirill Mukhin on guitars and vocals, Evgenii Ivanenko on bass and vocals, plus Aleksei Oboznyi on drums.  Mukhin has been well-known for several years as the instigator of Russia's seminal - though now defunct - webzine, SOUP.  Its archives, full of materials from earlier this decade, are thankfully still accessible.

A few references to Oboznyi in peripheral publications document the fact that several years ago he was "planning to become a policeman."  He abandoned those plans, however, and became a designer at the glossy entertainment magazine "Lichnoe vremia" (Private Time).  He may still work there.  On the other hand, he may not.  And thus we go on, guessing and assuming.

Whenever on stage, brought together from their unconnected and poorly documented careers, the one credo dictating their shared enterprise became - as an echo of journalistic opinion - the desire to "play pop music.  We're not trying to play the role of some spurned indie-band," wallowing in their own misery.  "We just want to be a pop group that has good taste."

Planning from the outset to bring the sounds of The Pixies, Sonic Youth, Yo Lo Tengo, Deus, and Pavement to Russia, their work was obviously cut out, but the broad virgin territories ahead of them left much room for promise.  Mukhin's record collection of similarly hip Western bands - used for reviews in SOUP - had already become known a source of inspiration for many visitors to his apartment;  maybe they'd work the same magic with their owner?

It's hard to know what happened next.  If a potential fan was poking around the band's attractively designed site, they'd be nonplussed by the type and frequency of news.  A brief outline of this confusion is warranted.

In September 2005, the band posted their first piece of news:  "Hello!  We don't have an album yet, but we do have a site!"  That post, as here, included a link to the site... where the reader already found himself.  Round and round went the visitor, reading news about the site where he was reading the news...

A few promo tracks went on line, together with bits and pieces of information regarding concerts.  Some of these events were postponed, others canceled.  The end of the year was marked by a troubling incident:  the group's drum kit was stolen, together "with a green sweater that has a red cross on it.  Please return it;  we're very upset."

Things got worse.  Within days at another gig, "a couple of pumped-up alcho-athletes stole our bass guitar.  We await the next concert in a state of terror..."  The last post of 2005 included the ensemble's willingness to play at "weddings, kids' parties, even funerals."  We imagine there were few takers for that third option.

The next year saw relatively little misery, and by June Man Bites Dog took an extended break in the hope of "summer, the seaside, and laziness."  They were brought back together in the autumn by the death of Rémy Belvaux, the young Belgian director of the satirical mockumentary after which the band named itself (above).  In honor of the movie's monochrome palette, a strict black & white dress-code was enforced.  Misfortune was back from vacation;  people should dress accordingly.

The following year, 2007, did not offer much in the way of happy activity, and in fact by summer the group was asking its fans for patience:  "OK kids, no need to pout!  You know that true love waits!"  At same time, planning to perform at Avant, they warned that it would probably be the band's last concert in its current form.  A line-up change was planned.

And with that, the news stops.  Completely.  If, however, we check out their MySpace page (decorated by a mysterious toll house [above]), the last login was registered as recently as mid-October, 2008.  Somewhere the "knights of Russian indie" are working hard and knitting green sweaters.  A wealth of medieval puns awaits them when they return.

Audio

Man Bites Dog – i'm doing fine
Man Bites Dog – lucifer sam
Man Bites Dog – Pitchfork Ratings
Man Bites Dog – Place I Call Home

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