Center, as described by their founder and only permanent member, Vasily Shumov, are a band that does exist, but at the same time...doesn't. It's the same story with Center's records, especially with the early ones. Released exclusively on tapes (there is absolutely no way a rock band could be allowed to make an actual record), these albums were phantoms, delicious rarities, treasures from the sunken ships of Russian rock pioneers. Actually, even some of the scant few promoters of rock music in the early '80s were quite squeamish about music created by Shumov and company: it was very different from their idea of "rock" as an acoustic guitar-based gloomy socially conscious alternative to the Soviet-censored boredom of a culture. Center didn't quite fit: too strange, too bright and lightheaded, too funny, too shapeless. It wasn't just different music, it was a different mentality. It's almost as if Tyaga k Tehnike (Inclination to Machinery), Center's fourth album, became popular (with two all-time hits, "Ya Vsyo Umeyu" [I Can Do Anything] and "Mal'chik V Tennisnyh Tuflyakh" [A Boy In Tennis Shoes]) despite the public's growing interest in homegrown rock music. While bands like DDT and Alisa sang about harsh Soviet realities and lack of freedom, Center actually tried to play music. Tyaga k Tehnike provides an array of cheerful post-punk melodies and 30-second skits with lyrics so self-centered, vain, and unconcerned that it could (and did) scare off not only the party censors, but also many "serious" music fans who were hungry for social commentary. The title track literally describes one's affection for everything mechanical over train-like bass and wavy guitars. "Odinokiy Sergey" (Lonely Sergey) is reminiscent of a school dance, with Shumov's trembling vocals and shy keyboards. It is hard to say whether Center skillfully disguises irony toward a new conformist generation under a bunch of blips, claps, yawns, and echoes surrounding new wave-meets-rockabilly rhythms, or whether they really just don't care. Regardless, their music is anything but boring, and that is more that one could ask for, perestroika or not.
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