The Ukrainians


Zirka 038CD14


Full Price (53 mins)

Originally published in Songlines.

By now, the story of how 80s rock band The Wedding Present reworked some Ukrainian folk tunes for a BBC John Peel Session, and ended up with a minor chart hit on their hands is the stuff of legend. Much horilka has flowed since those heady days – Cossack culture is hip back home again, and their student fan-base has been usurped by upstarts Gogol Bordello – but the trusty Ukes show no sign of tiring. With their trademark soaring field harmonies above the chugging, old school rock n roll ethos, and traditional bandura lute and accordion dancing over distortion pedals, Diaspora is a return to form. Amongst their covers this time around, Brahms’s Hungarian Dances – it is basically Ukrainian according to the Ukes – and T Rex’s Children of the Revolution. It’s all typically rousing stuff, particularly the supercharged Brahms reworking ‘Emigranty’ and the violin led thrashout ‘Marusya Bohuslavka’, where the heroic maiden Marusya rescues some Cossacks stuck in a 17th century epic poem. You’ll need a strong stomach for some of the lyrics – which can get a bit too strident and flag-waving for my taste – but if you can take the rose-tinted eulogies to the great nation with irony, Diaspora is an hour of classic Ukrainians material: fast, furious, and very vodka-friendly.

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