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45 Review

by Dmitriy Tselikov

Although Boris Grebenshikov and members of Aquarium did a lot to beef up Kino's debut, it would all be to no avail without Viktor Tsoi's delicate taste and naughtiness. He based his lyrics and music on city folklore, but avoided vulgarity and roughness. 45 had much in common with early Soviet bard music by romanticizing everything in sight from an urban perspective -- but it's not about crime or rubbish. Tsoi's hero is not just an idler; his soul is full of affecting poetry ("Tree") and merry irony ("My Friends") regarding his and his friends' way of life. Vocals range from deliberately rude intonations sarcastically imitating a "cool" manner of speech on the city streets to touching open-hearted confessions. However, the musical foundation is very simple, with acoustic guitars (Boris Grebenshikov and Alexei Rybin), flute (Andrei Romanov and Andrei Tropillo), and cello (Vsevolod Gakkel) creating a variety of lively, vivid, and bright -- if unsophisticated -- pictures. 45 demonstrates that Tsoi and Grebenshikov are skillful melodists. Aquarium brought to the recording all their fertile Akustika experience to make 45 fresh and beautiful in its ingenuity. Sometimes the tunes and beats are rather primitive, seemingly referring to the Merseybeat era, and while one could regard this as a flaw, one might also consider the musical approach as an effective way to deliver the feeling of an early morning headache experienced in a stinking filthy train station, or the despair felt by an impecunious lad. One listener might argue that the arrangements are too naïve and rude, while another might feel that the crudity here reproduces the aura of the early-'80s underground rock movement. Regardless, 45 -- along with Aquarium's Sinii Albom and Akustika -- signified a turning point in Russian rock toward much more independence, with imaginative music and mature lyrics.