Go Against the Stream
Rock among garbage cars
Nogu Svelo! (Russian: Ногу свело! Cramp in the Leg!) is a popular Russian rock band from Moscow, usually associated with humor and parody and accessible and sometimes childishly simple melodies. They have experimented with many styles in the past and seem to pay particular attention to instrumentation and arrangements and production values. The extravagant style of their late nineties albums has given way to a simpler and more commercially accessible sound in their post-1999 releases – perhaps a return to the guitar-centered sound of 1995’s Сибирская любовь [Sibirskaya lyubov’] (Siberian Love), yet arguably not possessing the youthful, hook-filled songwriting of that early-career round-up LP.
Of particular interest to English listeners is their nonchalantly zany use of the English language and sometimes, completely made up English-like lines in their early albums. “she drew me away and locked the door/my girl doesn’t love me anymore/I didn’t say anything but in my head/I had a plan to make them dead” from the track “Super Creature” on the album Сибирская любовь is an example of singer Maxim Pokrovskiy’s style. The band’s last few albums are recorded entirely in Russian:
Early period (1988–1995): Max Pokrovsky – music, lyrics, vocals, bass Igor Lapukhin – guitar Dmitriy Krichevskiy – drums Maxim Likhachev – trombone Aleksandr Volkov – keyboards. The band Nogu Svelo! was founded in 1988 by singer and bass player Maxim Pokrovsky. “Nogu Svelo!” can be translated as “I’ve got a cramp in my leg!” – like people shout when they come into cold water. At the beginning Nogu Svelo! was a member of Moscow Rock Laboratory (ru), an organization which supported both well-known and promising independent groups. When Moscow Rock Laboratory broke up in 1992 Nogu Svelo! already recorded two albums, took part in several big festivals and were well-known far outside Moscow.
The band’s first two albums are difficult to find, even in Russia. The debut, 1:0 в пользу девочек [1:0 v pol’zu devochek] (The Girls Lead 1:0), recorded in 1990 but released in 1993, shows the band’s creative processes: the music being written by the bassist Maxim Pokrovskiy and drummer Anton Yakomul’skiy is built around sometimes loose, sometimes tight bass riffs, and spacious drum cascades, with synths and guitars flowing in to play something that seemingly was made up on the spot by the respective players. The improvisational quality and the complete ignorance of any sort of commercial demands characterize this LP, yet plenty of songwriting talent is on view. The childish melody of “Дурдом” [Durdom] (Nut-House) – a track recorded in 1989 – is ethereal, and “Тычинка” [Tychinka] (Stamen) has a near-orchestral repeated synth passage surrounded by loose guitar and bass interplay. “Элегия” [Elegiya] (Elegy) has a driving bass riff, soaring guitar passages and an intense chorus relieved by a humorous acoustic guitar chorus. “Тазепам” (Tazepam) sounds like a less-successful attempt at the same thing until a locomotive-esque synth interlude recreates the song as a sort of psychedelic cartoon music. Several of the songs were re-recorded by the band on their later albums, with only “Лысая девочка” [Lysaya devochka] (The Bald Girl) gaining something in the process. The humorous nature of the band’s music is here underscored by “interludes” between the songs that consist of repeated synth music and recited poetry about people falling off buildings and dogs getting “stuck” on each other in the yard.
The band’s next album, Капризы манекенщиц [Kaprizy manekenschits] (The Capriciousness of Mannequins) was recorded in 1991 and released on vinyl in 1992. It is dominated by guitar and rhythmic bass. The title song has dramatic, psychedelic soundscapes, pulsating bass and a melodic chorus. Three songs were later re-recorded: Хару Мамбуру (Haru Mamburu) (1993), “Голая королева” [Golaya koroleva] (The Naked Queen) and “Хрустальная ваза” [Hrustal’naya vaza] (The Crystal Vase) that appears on 1999’s Каллы [Kally] (Calla Lillies).
But the group really shot to fame in 1993 when Nogu Svelo! won the first prize for its song “Haru Mamburu” in the festival “Generation – 93”. The lyrics were written in some special language invented by Maxim himself. The video for this song happened to be the first video of the band. Besides, “Haru Mamburu” became the soundtrack to a documentary film about Chechnya shot by London Television (directed by Tom Lasica). Since then, one could see Nogu Svelo! in popular TV shows and on the covers of the magazines and hear its songs on the radio. The next two videos of the group won awards in the festivals “Generation – 94”. In 1994 Nogu Svelo! took part in a rock festival in Montlusson, France, and in 1995 were awarded the Grand-Prix in the festival “Golden Stag”, Brasov, Romania for the video “Message”.
1993’s Хару Мамбуру provides the majority of the material for 1995’s Сибирская любовь, a compilation of re-recorded songs from the band’s first three albums and some new tracks. On the 1995 versions, the band had access to quality production facilities. Хару Мамбуру tracks that were not re-recorded are: “Самураи в рисовом поле” [Samurai v risovom pole] (Samurais in a Rice Field), an Oriental escapade; “Petting My Pets” and “Magic Pencil”, both with catchy pop choruses disguised as rock songs; and “Баранья опера” [Baran’ya opera) (Sheep Opera), with one of the band’s guitar-centered refrains are hidden among four minutes of band members pretending to be sheep.
Two further pop-rock tracks, “Пляжный рок-н-ролл” [Plyajnyi rok-n-roll] (Beach rock’n’roll) and “Baby” were re-recorded for Сибирская любовь; “Super Creature” with Teutonic guitars surrounding the timpani-dominated refrain and “Demoralization of Love”, with a pace-shifting winds-section interlude added in the re-recording.
The 1995 release contains two new songs; the title track, the band’s attempt at a Eurovision entry that raised awareness of them in Russia despite not winning the national nomination; and “Рождественская колыбельная” [Rojdestvenskaya kolybel’naya] (Christmas Lullaby), lasting less than 2 minutes.
Middle period (1996–1999). Having gained popularity (they even appeared with Russian mega-star Alla Pugachova in a concert), the band spent the next two years maturing their sound. Wind and horn sections received additional attention, synth parts became more colorful, bass became more subdued. The vocals of Maxim Pokrovskiy changed significantly, from a lack of melodic nuance and subtlety in conveying the humorous and parodic aspects of the lyrics to having a wide emotional range, an almost crooning quality in the slower or melodic passages and a serious tone even in the most ridiculous songs. For example, in a song describing the romance between a lady and a soldier, he proclaims: “…save our women from the anti-war rabble of the world”!).
The band recorded two albums between 1997 and 1999: Счастлива, потому что беременна: Cиний альбом [Schastliva, potomu chto beremenna: Siniy al’bom] (Happy Because I’m Pregnant: The Blue Album) and Счастлива, потому что беременна: Зелёный альбом [Schastliva, potomu chto beremenna: Zelyonyi al’bom] (Happy Because I’m Pregnant: The Green Album).
In 1997 Nogu Svelo! wrote music for Nikulin Moscow Circus. It is still used by Russian circus performers in France, Monte-Carlo, Germany and other European countries.
The band had planned the two albums to be released nine months apart. The “Blue” album was released in 1997, but the “Green” album was released in 1999, due to scheduling and other problems. The band continued their commercial success with two hits from the “Blue” album, “Лилипутская любовь” [Liliputskaya lyubov’] (Midget Love) and “Московский романс” [Moskovskiy romans] (The Moscow Romance), the latter with an award-winning video presenting Pokrovskiy as a Southern Caucasian begging for money on the background of a sweeping Moscow panorama.
While songs such as “Недуги” [Nedugi] (Illnesses) still have the loose bass-driven approach of “Хару Мамбуру”, “Реквием” [Rekviem] (Requiem) and “Четыре друга” [Chetyre druga] (The Four Friends) attempt a serious, more subdued style, while “Китайские колокольчики” [Kitayskiye kolokol’chiki] (Chinese Bells) predicts the “Green” album with its use of eclectic instrumentation and bittersweet melodies. The opening track has a retro-style rock and roll guitar riff backed up by a sweeping chord sequence. The bonus tracks include a self-made dance remix of 1993’s “Лысая девочка” and a noisy cover of the Russian film music classic “На Тихорецкую” [Na Tihoretskuyu] (To Tihoretskaya).
The “Green” album was a colorfully arranged and instrumented album. Most of the album is mostly humor, with only “Волки” [Volki] (Wolves) and “Реки” [Reki] (Rivers) – recorded with the Russian pop-star Natalya Vetlitskaya – being true pop songs. Only “Живая масса” [Jyvaya massa] (Live Mass) and “Искусство боли” [Iskusstvo boli] (The Art of Pain) have anything less than immediately appealing melody lines. Eastern-tinged “Влюблённые оленеводы” [Vlyublyonnye olenevody] (Reindeer Breeders in Love) and “Лесная школа” [Lesnaya shkola] (The Forest School) are rich in melodies, drawing from folk music – the latter song employs a Ukrainian folk music vocal ensemble. In several songs the band employs guitar effects similar to those of Dire Straits’ “Money for Nothing”. The acoustic-instrumental “Муж на работе” [Muj na rabote] (Husband at Work) is tasteful and subtle. “Волки” is a slow dance and the Nirvana pastiche “День рождения” [Den’ rojdeniya] (Birthday) samples a bass line from that band’s “Very Ape”.
In 1999, the out-takes and non-album tracks compilation Каллы was released, drawing mostly on their earlier period, to mark the band’s tenth anniversary. The album opens with “Кукла” [Kukla] (A Doll) which shows the more straightforward style the band had adopted. The other tracks run the full gamut of styles: classical parody “Ave Maria” (Schubert’s famous melody interpolated with incongruous guitar noise), covers of two famous Russian film melodies probably originally intended for the “Blue” album, “Мясной брудершафт” [Myasnoy brudershaft] (The Meat Brüderschaft) parodying German popular music, early songs like “I’m Blue” and “Sporting”, and drawn-out psychedelic jams “Хрустальная ваза” and “Диблопопс” (Diblopops). “Трусики” [Trusiki] (Panties) is a fully worked-out piece of 80s indie music.
Latest period (2000–2008)
On the 2000 album Бокс (Box), Pokrovskiy and Nogu Svelo! abandon much of what had characterized their 1990s music. The band now embraced outside influences in a wholesale way, maintaining its identity almost exclusively on the strength of Pokrovskiy’s voice and image. Later in the year the band released its first CD single, “Матная песня” [Matnaya pesnya] (Obscene Song), containing the title track and several remixes by the band.
In the summer of 2001 Maxim Pokrovsky starred in Sarah Kane’s play Cleansed, directed by J. Montvilajte. It was his first experience as an actor.
Commercial success continued with the 2002 album В темноте [V temnote] (In the Dark) and hits such as “Последнее танго” [Poslednee Tango] (The Last Tango), “Наши юные смешные голоса” [Nashi yunye smeshnye golosa] (Our Young Funny Voices), and the 2004 single “Я – не последний герой!” [Ya – ne posledniy geroy!] (I’m Not the Last Hero!), which became a theme song to the reality show Last Hero, a Russian version of Survivor, in which Pokrovsky participated in late 2003.
In the summer of 2002 the songs of Nogu Svelo! were played by a number of Spanish radio stations such as Radio Denia, Radio Pego, Europa Benidorm, Radio Benidorm, Cadena COPE (Valensia), Radio Gandia, Radio Naranja (Gandia).
The First Russian
Symphonic Rock Show
3 Sold Out Shows, 21000 Viewers
"Music chooses who she wants to visit. And sometimes it visits us.."
Maxim Pokrovsky tried his hand at composing music for cinema, that is, writing the soundtrack to the film “Time Is Money”, which was shown in the USA and Australia and was a success. At the end of 2004 the group released an album that included the soundtrack and the song “Moskva – Shaverma”, for which a video was made. In the whole there are more than 30 songs in the album.
Also in 2004 the band released its first “greatest hits” compilation entitled “Откровенные фотографии” [Otkrovennye fotografii] (Candid Photos), which collected the band’s most popular songs and some tracks previously unreleased or released only as singles (such as “Я – не последний герой!”) and another single release, “Рекламное место сдаётся!” [Reklamnoe mesto sdayotsya!] (Ad Space For Rent!), featuring an openly anti-commercial song. The band’s frontman acted in the feature film “Время-деньги” [Vremya-den’gi] (Time Is Money), and the soundtrack was released in early 2005. The album contained one new song, with the rest of the album being filled with short instrumental pieces, often experimental in nature.
In 2004 Nogu Svelo! had its 15th anniversary. To celebrate the event the group put on a great show in Estrada Theatre on April, 20, which was first shown on one of the main Russian TV channels and then several times on MTV Russia.
In the summer of 2004 Maxim participated in the Russian version of the game show Fort Boyard (project of RTR – national Russian TV channel).
In late 2004 – early 2005, Maxim started working at the song “Let’s Go East!” which was the main soundtrack to the film The Turkish Gambit, directed by Janick Faiziev. The song became very popular and was played on the main Russian radio stations, and the video topped TV charts. The Turkish Gambit was released in Russia, the USA and Europe and was top-grossing film of the year in Russia.
The band’s tenth studio album was released in 2005, entitled “Идём на Восток!” [Idyom na Vostok!] (Let’s Go East!). Before this album, the title song was used as the main soundtrack single from the 2005 Russian record-breaking blockbuster film The Turkish Gambit. The album contains the previously released “Рекламное место сдаётся!”.
On 16 June 2005, Nogu Svelo! prepared a special event for its fans – the presentation of their new album “Going East!”, performed in an aircraft hangar.
In 2005, Max appeared in the film Rhythm of Tango (director Alexander Pavlovsky, starring Natalia Oreiro), where the group’s songs were used. In the autumn of 2005 Maxim played Gorynych in the Hollywood film Treasure Raiders, directed by Brent Huff and produced by Alexander Nevsky. Among his partners were David Carradine, Sherilyn Fenn, William Shockley, Steven Brand and Andrew Divoff.
Maxim Pokrovsky was involved in making the anthem of the 2014 Winter Olympics in support of holding them in Sochi. In 2007 Nogu Svelo! participated in the third annual Russian Winter Festival in London.
In 2006 the group won Best Soundtrack in MTV Russia Movie Awards for its song “Going East!” written for the film The Turkish Gambit. Maxim Pokrovsky took part in making the anthem of the 2014 Olympic Games in support of holding them in Sochi.
In 2007 Nogu Svelo! participated in the 3rd annual Russian Winter Festival and in the Moscow Motion Party in London.
Yakomul’skiy left the band in 2007, due to mounting philosophical differences with Pokrovskiy over the future course of the band’s development.