Je Mi Krásne

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Je Mi Krásne (I Feel Great -- pretty cynical considering the beat-up face looking out from the cover) is the third album from Czech pub rockers Echt! Don't let the language barrier stop you (all lyrics are in Czech), because this is one good rocker. Elements of British and American proto-punk (Lou Reed and the Stooges come to mind) are fused with something a little more Irish (Pogues, Soldat Louis) and that unmistakable heavy rock sound the Czechs play. The gravelly bass register of leader Karel Malík prevents any possibility for the music to fall into the overexcited screaming that young punk groups get into; this is more sedate and serious music -- the presence of a cellist (Tomás Schilla) as a full-time member also has a lot to do with that feeling, as can be witnessed in the lyrical "Skorápky." Name-spotters will be happy to see Plastic People of the Universe's Josef Janícek contributing banjo on a couple of tracks. Echt!'s strength resides in its understated energy and clever arrangements. "Jenom Jednou," "To Se Stává," and "Pamet Versus River of Shit" (that one will remain an enigma) stand as highlights. On a few occasions the group attempts something that sounds close to ska but never quite finds the drive necessary to pull it off. "Léta" is such an example, but things get worse in "Je Mi Krásne," where the rhythm guitar and drums can't seem to lock into the right groove -- the fact that the tune alternates between the ska pattern and a mournful bolero doesn't help either. Otherwise, this is a fine album.

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