The Ukrainians

Respublika

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Are the Ukrainians a force of nature? The band, originally formed as a side project by Wedding Present member Pete Solowka, has become something to be reckoned with over the years. Their presentation of traditional Ukrainian songs is both harder and more tempered on Respublika. Gone is the relentless speeding up during a song that had been one of their trademarks, replaced by more considered arrangements, like "The Pine Tree Was Burning," with its reference to the Cure's "10:15 on a Saturday Night." But there's also more power in their music, a deeper, harder bass pulse and thicker beat. It's all post-punk, very electric folk, like the mandolin solo on "The Maple Tree Stood at the Water's Edge," which has the edge of Joy Division in its fire, or the spiky "On the Hill." The band brings a lot to this old material, the feel of rock that ignites these songs to the stratosphere, whether it's the drums thundering under everything, or simply unaccompanied voices. For all that the folk material is wonderful, the two tracks that will gain attention here are the Sex Pistols covers, a fiery "Anarchy in the U.K." and a slightly goofy "Pretty Vacant." They're novelties, as their earlier Smiths covers were (although the maudlin Smiths songs fit wonderfully in a Ukrainian framework), but a great deal of fun. It would be a shame if they put the rest of the record in the shade, because overall it's the best work this band has done, mature but thrilling.

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