The Plastic People of the Universe: RFD,C/D,S/D

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Yeah, I think the VU cover and the Lou Reed connection with Václav Havel probably gave me the wrong idea.

clemenza, Tuesday, 13 September 2022 04:21 (two months ago) link

The genesis seed ov their vibe, as I took it from the first one I heard, Egon Bondy's..., was "Venus in Furs," especially what Cale was doing with his viola in that context--extended into a foggy Prague spy movie soundtrack and then some---as I said in a 90s Voice piece about Eastern European rock, they (after growling like the MGM lion and saying, "Metro Goldwyn Mayer") "made the most of recording deep in a castle after midnight." I liked all the ones mentioned here, also said

...three members stepped out to form
Pulnoc. Who evidently came to rock away the barnacles of history,
but initially tended toward endless guitarrr.
By the time they were robustly Live In New York (1989, released on CD in 1996), however, guitar was Pulnoc's sweet mighty trained engine, no longer trying to be
the whole vehicle. Then they split, but left piñata goodies. In "Vidiny," on
Fiction's self-titled 1996 album, Plastic/Pulnoc person Milian Hlavsa just
keeps slo-o-w-ly raising the noize level around a sleepless chantoozie— the sound
doesn't change til it does, and the moon hits all eyes like a flipper.
Stranger-tasting post-Pulnoc goodies may be found on the 1997 Black Point
import The Black Sampler,, which offers illegible titles, P/P vet Joseph Janicek's
Echt!, and a co-op including Plastics Brabenec, Brabec, and Karafiat. Echt!
motorvate a rusty sled to run over wolves from presumptuous Russian fairy tales (there's also a tenderly growled dream sequence or two). Brabenec's crew
float through nightmares and nightcaps like Reed and Cale revisiting an unplugged and
un-Nico'd "It Was a Pleasure Then," trapped on a raft in sweet air.

And yeah they got back together for the excellent 1997.

dow, Tuesday, 13 September 2022 05:10 (two months ago) link

"Venus in Furs" x "Light Reflected Off The Oceands of The Moon," or some other Beefheart sax work-out, as starting points.

dow, Tuesday, 13 September 2022 05:12 (two months ago) link

Oh yeah, Czech novelist-musician Josef (The Bass Saxophone) Skvorecky's "Hipness At Noon" tells how it all went down, with PPU as hairy bone ov contention between the officially sanctioned Musicians' Union leadership and the upstart Jazz Section: https://newrepublic.com/article/99364/hipness-noon

dow, Tuesday, 13 September 2022 21:53 (two months ago) link

I love the Plastic People but they were an avant-prog/fusion group. They never sounded that much like the VU, at least on any of the records that I know (which is more than when I started this thread; I also listened to them more!)

I think they had periods when they sounded more like the Velvets, when they had the Canadian(?) guy singing for them - though I'm not sure any of that period was ever recorded. I suppose you could say they are a bit like Zappa but played with the rawness of the Velvets except they don't really sound that much like Zappa either!

Buckfast At Tiffany's (Tom D.), Tuesday, 13 September 2022 22:19 (two months ago) link

Oh I didn't compare their avant-prog/fusion sound to Zappa! If anything, Egon Bondy's... might make me think more of Can but w violin and clarinet.

No purposes. Sounds. (Sund4r), Wednesday, 14 September 2022 00:04 (two months ago) link

I mean, ofc they were quite a unique band and had their own sound. There's the obv "Bitches Brew" quote

When I've played them for students, the comparisons that came up were actually Led Zeppelin and the Doors.

No purposes. Sounds. (Sund4r), Wednesday, 14 September 2022 00:07 (two months ago) link

Hadn't thought of Led, but the use of folk & blues via acoustic and heavy dynamics fits, and goes with, you know, Bartok and Dvorak times jazz and rock---ditto those jazz-blues-heads the Doors, and I bet the PPU enjoyed the Doors' cover of "Whiskey Bar"---with Ray's Marxophone! That was a big crossroads-gateway track for me. Hadn't thought of Can, but of course, now that you mention it.
(Oh yeah, in that piece I linked, Skvorecky details xpost Paul Wilson's contributions to the People's and other rebel moves---he got deported to Canada, but set up the Boží Mlýn label and I think was involved in getting some of the PPU and other albums out of the Soviet bloc.)
They were assumed to be into Zappa/Mothers because of their name, but FZ's gibe, "Plas-tic pee-pul, oh baby now you're such a drag" was one thing, while they explained that they were thinking more of "plasny," which has to do with adaptation. Of course Zappa did sometimes feature violin and sax and other reeds, but he doesn't seem to haven been one of their faves in particular.

dow, Wednesday, 14 September 2022 01:25 (two months ago) link

Despite his re-stated resistance to arena rock, art rock, and most of all what he calls "Yuropean" flavors of those and other, xgau really got and got into PPU and Pulnoc:
https://www.robertchristgau.com/get_artist.php?name=The+Plastic+People+of+the+Universe

https://www.robertchristgau.com/get_artist.php?id=1102&name=Pulnoc

Hope I've still got a copy of the bootleg board tape he christened Live at PS 122, their first NYC show in '89: don't know what generation it is, but really good. hopefully posted somewhere, since I'd have to dig pretty deep for the cassette.

Also---Milan Hlavsa 1951-2001:
https://www.robertchristgau.com/xg/music/hlavsa-rs.php

dow, Wednesday, 14 September 2022 20:43 (two months ago) link

He does hear them as being into Zappa. Well okay (I got off the Z-bus pretty early, so maybe).

dow, Wednesday, 14 September 2022 20:45 (two months ago) link

Yes, I think there's a definite Zappa element in there, I don't hear anything like Can though, they're too lumpy and awkward for that. Though they have a lot of later albums which I've never heard, I only really know the 70s stuff.

Buckfast At Tiffany's (Tom D.), Wednesday, 14 September 2022 20:50 (two months ago) link

Hope I've still got a copy of the bootleg board tape he christened Live at PS 122, their first NYC show in '89: don't know what generation it is, but really good. hopefully posted somewhere, since I'd have to dig pretty deep for the cassette

lmk if you want i can dropbox it or whatever, dow. i forget who, but someone on the board was kind enough to turn me onto that one many years ago

Half Japanese Breakfast (outdoor_miner), Wednesday, 14 September 2022 22:16 (two months ago) link

i always assumed some Zappa love just on account of their name

Half Japanese Breakfast (outdoor_miner), Wednesday, 14 September 2022 22:17 (two months ago) link

Tbc I do know they were Zappa fans and took inspiration from him (as did many prog and avant-garde rock bands). I just meant that their often dark and droney music doesn't usually recall for me most of the qualities that I typically associate with Zappa's sound: tight, busy, on-a-dime arrangements; virtuosic rhythmic complexity; cartoonishly jarring stylistic juxtapositions; echoes of 50s rock and roll and doo-wop. There's maybe a couple percentage points more of those than you find in Can tbf. (Xgau did say PPotU make Can and Faust look like wimps in that link!)

No purposes. Sounds. (Sund4r), Wednesday, 14 September 2022 22:59 (two months ago) link

i think i remember hearing via mr. yanosik that the famous PS 122 tape may get an official release. i think they're just haggling about inclusion of the cover song.

Thus Sang Freud, Wednesday, 14 September 2022 23:01 (two months ago) link

xxxpost thanks, will keep that in mind, outdoor_miner, but it's high time I get off my duff and excavate the stash incl PS 122. Great to know it may get legit release intact, or at all.
(Xgau did say PPotU make Can and Faust look like wimps in that link!) Ha yeah but he would; they and (Plastics spin-off Pulnoc) and sometimes Henry Cow, and some things by or involving Robert Wyatt, are about all the "Yurrupean art rock" he can digest, like Motorhead and Reign In Blood-era Slayer are about it for him in metal.

dow, Wednesday, 14 September 2022 23:53 (two months ago) link

So, stimulated by xpost rockcritics.com coverage of the PPU expert, I've tweaked my archived edition of xpost "Uprostred," written in early '99 about the PPU family tree and some neighbors. It was my maiden Voice voyage as unfrozen caveman hipster, still quite evidently, but now with chiropractic adjustments, as I've become a better re-writer over the years. Informative, anyway, re a lot of good-to-great old music still in no danger of overexposure:https://myvil.blogspot.com/2005/12/uprosted.html

dow, Sunday, 18 September 2022 21:34 (two months ago) link


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