The Ukrainians - Istoriya (Cover Artwork)

The Ukrainians

The Ukrainians: IstoriyaIstoriya (2004)

Reviewer Rating: 3.5

Contributed by: JiveSideJiveSide
(others by this writer | submit your own)

The Velvet Underground's "Venus in Furs" ("Chekannya") has never sounded as beautiful as it does in the Ukrainian tongue, and The Smith's classic "The Queen is Dead" ("Koroleva Ne Pomerla") is dark and fresh with mandolin's dancing over the minimalist melody. Even The Clash and The Sex Pistols rece.

The Velvet Underground's "Venus in Furs" ("Chekannya") has never sounded as beautiful as it does in the Ukrainian tongue, and The Smith's classic "The Queen is Dead" ("Koroleva Ne Pomerla") is dark and fresh with mandolin's dancing over the minimalist melody. Even The Clash and The Sex Pistols receive an Eastern European makeover with fabulously strange results that sound like a soviet version of The Pogues, not quite as fun, but certainly interesting. Sung almost entirely in Ukrainian, Istoriya is a greatest hits compilation from the Ukrainians, a British band, ironically, that showcases twenty songs from their catalogue of traditional folk music twisted around a punk aesthetic, once again think The Pogues but with a darker tone. Aside from the unique cover songs chosen for credibility and as a reference for the listener to further understand what this music is, where it came from, and why these musicians came together and stayed together to play it, the original material is wonderfully performed and arranged with lots of instruments playing and voices singing (in Ukrainian!), in fact one might miss the cover songs amidst the original material for what this band does is very consistent, not to mention, once again, the language may as well be gibberish to non-Ukrainian speakers, and it's hard to tell one song from the other at first or fifth listen. But sit with this album and you'll be singing right along with whatever words aren't that hard to pronounce.

A friend once told me he could make me a Pogues fan in five minutes, he was right and I aim to take a similar approach here; I can make you, dear reader, a fan of The Ukrainians in ten to fifteen minutes. "Venus in Furs" should be enough to make you interested, but cover songs aren't enough to get to the core, so here I go.

"Durak" begins with an acoustic guitar followed by vocals which then swell with accordions, mandolins, drums, bass, and violins into a fast polka rhythm that drives hard and suddenly ends with only an accordion playing on the fade out. Okay, that was three and a half minutes, I saw you bobbing your head, yeah, just let the music happen and don't get too unnerved by the Ukrainian, I know it's kinda scary, but it won't bite you too hard. The opening track "Telstar" is a wordless melody that changes hands among the band, starting with voices which are joined by mandolins, guitars, more voices, and a hard jungle beat drummer Dave Lee can't seem to get enough of, this is pretty much the formula; hard, dancing rhythms underneath floating melodies with the instrumentation doubling the melody and creating thick harmonic textures. To change the mood, "Oi Divchino" is a lighthearted, up-tempo tune that plays off of a bouncing accordion, I'm not sure what is being said, but it sounds like fill your pint, grab your neighbor, and challenge him to a drinking contest and don't let the increasing tempo make you spill your beer.

The next song I'll sling is "Slava", a creepy little ditty with Rammstein-esque vocals scraping the bottom of the singer's range as he spits strange words over a dark cavern of sounds that build in dynamic and increase in numbers as more and more instruments are added and soon a small female chorus is singing as the drums patiently pound like a machine in the background. Not knowing the language actually makes the mood that much more believable and eerie, and the instrumentation is a perfect extension of singer "Legendary Len" Liggins as he croons and scowls through this music. If you aren't a fan by now, I have time for just one more, the minute and half "Dity Plachut", a very fast instrumental that shows off the chops in this band, particularly the mandolin players.

And there you have it, in ten to fifteen minutes you're a fan, not necessarily a rabid and obsessive fan, but a fan and that's what I intended.


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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
Anonymous (August 20, 2004)

I love this album! There again, I'm their guitarist.....

Icapped2pac (August 19, 2004)

"If you want a high horse to sit on, make sure it isn't supported by springs and metal."

Score is for that quote.

JiveSide (August 18, 2004)

Aight, first off, these guys are British...why they sing in Ukrainian is a musical choice...second, if you can't listen to music with non-english lyrics then you have serious issues with music itself for music is just manipulated sound (most music isn't lyrical and most isn't pop...try thinking outside of the box)...third, just because I made a Pogues reference doesn't mean they are a rip-off, it is merely a writing choice I made to give a reference to the reader without having to hear the music...and finally, if you are going to insult someone in the written word, please use proper grammar; "their fags" is a possesive statement, "they're fags" means that they are, not that they have. If you want a high horse to sit on, make sure it isn't supported by springs and metal. That is all, thanks for reading and keeping me entertained. Peace AouT.

Anonymous (August 17, 2004)

What the fuck are you talking about?
"But you can never generalize a whole ethinic group as good or bad. Get a fucking clue, you dickheads."

You think I dont fucking know that? Everyone does it to Americans so why not do it to some lame ass country? Im just fucking around. I think everyone and everything sucks. Its why im here. To bitch and moan and insult and scrutinize all the conformists, just to make their life as miserable as my life is. Ukrainians are complete conformists. Thats why their fags.

Icapped2pac (August 17, 2004)

And just for the record, I did NOT make up the part about my friend getting assaulted in a "Ukrainian" park (as she phrased it). Her boyfriend is of Ukrainian descent, and apparently it's a place for people of similar descent from the Detroit area to congregate. Just so happens, like so many other ethnicities, some Ukrainians are horrible people. I wonder if they do a test at the gate to make sure you're Ukrainian, though.... The more I think about it, she really could've made it all up. Many girls do love any kind of attention they can get, especially pity.

Icapped2pac (August 17, 2004)

You guys fucking kill me. Case #145435 of sarcasm going over the heads of the fucking morons that read this site. I don't know any Ukrainians, so I don't have any real opinion. But you can never generalize a whole ethinic group as good or bad. Get a fucking clue, you dickheads.

Anonymous (August 17, 2004)

by looking at the cd cover I would say Ukrainians are fun loving people who like to sit around, drink beer, sing drunken music and get laid. I am going to check this cd out just because they look like fun loving dudes who know how to have a good time. I'm guessing that this cd is fun to listen to, no bullshit politics, no girl problems, just music about beer and accordians. These guys rock, no doubt about it.

Anonymous (August 17, 2004)

and that was a close second or maybe even a tie for the most ignorant comment ever

Anonymous (August 17, 2004)

Seriosuly, that was the most gayest comment ever. Ukrainians are peace loving people with seriously gay lame music......Just ask The Ukrainians...no actually just listen to them and then you'll see. Their a peace loving people because their fags...especially there faggy music.

Anonymous (August 16, 2004)

that is the most retarded post in the history of this site.

Icapped2pac (August 16, 2004)

Some Ukrainian kids beat up, choked, and almost raped my friend in some park near Brighton, MI. So obviously this score is for Ukrainians, who are all bad people. Seriously, though, if you know any Ukrainian rapists who have a series of cuts on their heads from a defensive nail/claw attack, let me know. Then again, maybe she made it up for attention.

Anonymous (August 16, 2004)

how so? if i can't understand them what would i take away from it...doesn't sound like they are breaking any musical barriers if they could be considered comparable to the Pogues...

Anonymous (August 16, 2004)

you must be single minded then.

Anonymous (August 16, 2004)

i can't see listening to music that who's lyrics i can't even understand...

Anonymous (August 14, 2004)

these guys are awesome - I love shooting up some H, snorting some coke and listening the this cd while I dig holes in the back yard for no apparent reason.

TheNightProwler (August 13, 2004)

I'm Ukrainian actually but I seriously doubt I'll be checking out this anytime soon, if at all.

I had to deal enough with all that Ukranian music growing up.

Anonymous (August 13, 2004)


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