Minsk postpunks Molchat Doma transform gloom into resilience on Monument | Music Review | Chicago Reader

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Minsk postpunks Molchat Doma transform gloom into resilience on Monument

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Like many Americans, I was awestruck by images of the historic Belarusian protests against President Alexander Lukashenko (“Europe’s last dictator”) that exploded after the country’s August elections. But reports of police brutality from Belarus—and the growing chorus of international academics and reporters warning that Americans could soon find themselves in a similar spot—added sinister, unsettling overtones to those inspiring photos of mass rallies standing against corruption. In late August, Minsk postpunk trio Molchat Doma joined 23 other artists from various countries on the compilation For Belarus, a Bandcamp-only benefit for the Belarus Solidarity Foundation, and on their new third album, Monument, they maintain their indefatigable spirit, threading together influences from Russian rock and Western groups such as Joy Division and Depeche Mode. Molchat Doma recall the tradition of 80s Iron Curtain rock bands, who united people across political and geographical lines by offering hope, escape, and a form of civil disobedience you could dance to (and who sometimes found ingenious ways to distribute their music). Molchat Doma’s Russian-language lyrics are rarely overtly political—they focus more on sadness, relationships, and observations of everyday life—but the band are nonetheless clearly subversive, if sometimes also fatalistic. On the relatively sunny “Discoteque,” which pays homage to Depeche Mode’s “I Just Can’t Get Enough,” vocalist Egor Shkutko sings, “I don't give a damn about what will happen to me later / I dance like a god because tomorrow will not be the same.” Tracks such as “Obrechen” (“Doomed”) and “Udalil Tvoy Nomer” (“Deleted Your Number”) feel forlorn and despairing, but the uptempo “Zvezdy” (“Stars”) seems to twinkle like its namesake, and the guitar line that bounces through “Leningradsky Blues” even adds a hint of fun. Molchat Doma aren’t reinventing the wheel, but they’ve expanded their turf on Monument with fresh songwriting and sticky hooks. Belarus and the U.S. are hardly the only countries wrestling with cultural and political reckonings, so let’s hope that as Molchat Doma continue to build an audience around the world, their music powers dance parties—and revolutions—for years to come.   v

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