|“Taking the current oomph-punk vogue to new heights are Leningrad… mashed together from equal parts cabaret, ska and Soviet kitsch, the music could be the most profoundly Russian stuff ever ” Village Voice
Leningrad is a phenomenon. Wherever they appear, they leave people breathless. The cult is growing and has by now also found them fans among people, who have nothing to do with Russia. After some first spectacular, mostly sold-out concerts in Western Europe, Leningrad are finally released here on CD.
Currently there are 15 members in the band, or rather orchestra Leningrad. This makes their live performance an unforgettable experience. This makes up for the irresistible appeal of Leningrad. The music is a mixture of ska, Cuban salsa and Russian prison chanson, sung with their hearts on their sleeves. Nowadays, there are also rap influences and hard rock guitars in Leningrad’s music and the songs always tell stories and little dramas.
Leningrad trespasses against all sorts of rules and breaks with traditions; they swear in public, shoot scandalous video clips and cause mayhem at their concerts. Shnur himself says about his band: ‘Leningrad – is like a porno film: with little means you provoke strong emotions.’
That was way too much for Moscow mayor Yuri Lushkov, who prohibited Leningrad ever performing in Moscow again. Still in the rest of the country they perform in front of thousands of frenetic fans.
Hleb is Leningrad’s most social album so far. The fancy world of tennis stars or the power of banks – the conflict between poor and rich is one of the most prominent features of post Soviet turbo capitalism. Leningrad manage to describe society problems in a few striking lines.
Within a few years Leningrad turned from a club band into a stadium act without loosing any of its credibility.
Most chart bands in Russia copy their Western counterparts. Leningrad may well be the only Russian top ten band, who is musically and lyrically denying itself to the mainstream. Post modernism meets folk&roll and urban underground in a tasty cocktail. Leningrad’s lyrics deal with the Russian every man from the streets, mostly interested in sex and alcohol, but who has the heart in the right place. Shnur’s songs use a plethora of swearwords as well as the language of Soviet dissidents’ chansons to grab things ‘by the balls’, similar to Soviet underground writers: rude, but not dumb. This is most likely the reason why Leningrad is loved not only by the common people, but also by the intellectuals, who cannot but grin at this clever poetic swearing. Theirs is a language everyone understands, while pretending not to speak. Their songs are about things, most people in Russia can identify with these days: booze, sex, death, irony, money, love, love for money, no money, no luck, no future.
Leningrad follows the tradition of the prison songs of the 1930s and the cheeky, but melancholic songs of the Soviet underground songwriters of the 1970s. Leningrad continues this heritage on a more aggressive and thus more contemporary musical level. This side of Leningrad comes across especially well on Shnur’s solo bonus album, available with the limited edition of Hleb.