(All Album Reviews by maribor)
The Yugoslavian musical scene was very well developed in the mid 70s but most of the bands were very politically correct and were in a way forced to occasionally play material of a more patriotic nature. So what the scene needed was a band which would stand up against such conformism in the lyrics department. And that band was Buldozer. No one was safe from their ridicule. In a humorous way they criticized everyone from Bijelo Dugme, Pro Arte, religions, cults,... Nothing was sacred to them; even handicapped people weren’t left out of their lyrics. So in a way, Buldozer could be seen as the first Yugoslavian punk band, though only regarding the lyrics.
The music has nothing in common with punk though, at least not on the first few albums. It is indeed very difficult to define the genre. They play just about everything from hard rock, bluesy rock, symphonic, avant-garde. I think it would be easiest to say they’re an art rock band. Their style may seem quite messy at first, but on repeated listening, the structures reveal themselves. They play songs with fairly complicated structures and the choruses are basically non-existent. The melodies themselves are complex and unusual even for progressive rock.
This isn’t music for people who prefer the lighter side of the prog spectre, this is music that sounds harsh and rough, both vocally and musically, even though there are some moments featuring a more mellow sound. If you like the highly melodic Italian symph, this may not be for you, for it is full of cacophony, strange noises (the throwing up at the end of “Blues gnjus” springs to mind) and melodies that are simply not pretty. But this is definitely a band worth exploring and paying more attention to. Even though most people know of Buldozer because of their provocative and sarcastic lyrical matters, the music is just as good and important, if not more so, because the humour (which is sometimes a bit too simplistic and in your face for my liking) can wear a bit thin but the music remains good and unravels with each listen.
Buldozer were well known for making fun of everyone and everything, even themselves. There’s one anecdote about how the band fooled their singer Marko Brecelj into trying cocaine. He was all spaced out and seeing strange things and they were all laughing at him. Later they told him it wasn’t really cocaine but flour, and Brecelj lost it. Rumour has it that this was in fact the reason for his departure after the second album. So it was in fact their humour that worked against them in the end because after Brecelj left, they weren’t as good anymore, they lost some of their edge.
This is a great debut by anyone’s standards, and while the music might be slightly better on the 2nd album, the lyrics of this are fresher and sharper, while on the 2nd effort it seemed as if they were just trying too hard to be funny all the time. 8 out of 10.
When I say perfection, you think of:
a) trite, cliché, mindless music
b) good, but derivative music
c) mind-numbingly brilliant, completely original, revolutionary, and altogether fascinating music
If you chose c) (which I sure hope you did), this is an album for you. Whether you like it or not, it’s impossible to deny the importance of this album, both musically and contextually. While I do not have the background other reviewers of this album have (namely, being from former Yugoslavia and/or speaking the language used on this album), I do know, both from my listening and my knowledge of repressive regimes and also from their reviews that this was a revolutionary album in every sense of the word. But what are these senses of the word, and how does this album fulfill them? Well, that’s what my review will try to answer.
The first thing you need to know about this album is that it came out of Yugoslavia in the mid 1970s. While this may not seem like much to you, keep in mind that this was not like being from Britain or France, countries that, while not necessarily perfect censorship-wise, were nothing compared to the regimes under the Soviet eye. Thus, the band’s work must be placed inside this context, seen not only as a revolutionary album in terms of how it used music, but also as revolutionary in the sense that it was, in many ways, designed to spark a revolution. Not necessarily a physical one, but one that swept through people’s minds and urged them to think for themselves. This can easily be seen in the lyrical content of the album. Other reviewers who know the language have described the meanings of the tracks admirably, and keep in mind that when I talk about the meanings of the individual tracks, it is due to their work (particularly Seyo’s), not mine. The songs dwell on such serious themes as suicide to ridiculous satires of love or tales of bulldozers and angry bulls.
Musically, this album is a mixed bag, not in terms of quality, but in terms of style. This gives the album a very diverse feel that keeps it from ever getting boring. The styles present on the album range from psychedelia to blues to Elvis style rock (only done much better than Elvis ever managed), and, of course, a fair dose of avant-garde insanity holding it all together. Every musician is top notch here, but my favorite has to be Marko Brecelj on lead vocals. He is a master of the art, not in the sense that he has a good voice (I can’t tell if he does or not, but I’m guessing he does), but in the sense that, like Don Van Vliet and Damo Suzuki (the former best known as Captain Beefheart, the latter of the krautrock band Can), he is not afraid to use it innovatively. Often, he is the only musician going, as he chants the lyrics in strange tones that throw you off guard more than even the strangest music ever could (and I speak from experience, having heard PLENTY of strange music). The first time you hear it, you will think it awful. I did, and, as I said, I’ve heard plenty of music that ought to be more off putting. But, over time, you come to realize just how integral Brecelj’s off-kilter vocals are to the music.
Add to this Uros Lovsin and Boris Bele on guitar, who seem to be able to take the instrument wherever they want, from bottleneck psychedelia to blues to funk, and who deliver some of my all time favorite guitar solos on this album. Andrej Veble’s bass can sometimes be hard to hear, but if you listen carefully (which you ought to do anyway), you will be able to hear his indisputable affect on the sound. While not the most technically skilled playing, he makes it work perfectly. Borut Cinc takes over keyboard duty, and does a fantastic job. He seems to hover, always there, even if he’s usually in the background, and I often find myself specifically picking out his parts specifically as I listen, very much enjoying his work. Finally, we Stefan Jez on drums who provides some fine rhythms on all the songs, but he’s at his best when he shows us his avant-garde percussion on songs such as “Sta To Radis, Buldozeru Jeden” and “Ljubav na Prvi Krevet.” All of these musicians to create one of the greatest musical forces of nature ever to operate, and especially coming out of a communist country.
The album opens with the short “Najpogodnije Mjesto” (The Best Place), a lamentation by Marko Brecelj about how he is new to the town, and he wonders where the best place to commit suicide is (because, being new, he, of course, does not yet know). Even though I cannot understand the actual words, I still crack up listening to it, just from the knowledge of its brilliant subject matter. All of this is spoken atop some bottleneck psychedelic guitar. It may seem insignificant just by looking at its length and my description, but know that it is not in any sense. Instead, it perfectly introduces the album, preparing you for the five gems that lie in wait.
“Zivot, To Je Feferon” (Life is But a Chili Pepper) is a crazy psychedelic avant-garde number that opens with some of Brecelj’s greatest vocals. He’s impossible to describe (mostly because I’ve never heard anything like it, and so have no reference points), but he’s brilliant. And then the band cuts in some overwhelmingly happy music and vocals that are such a stark contrast to what you’d expect that they suck you right in. There’s an instrument in there I can’t place at points (accordion, maybe? – you’ll know it when you hear it), and it’s absolutely delightful. In addition to all this, some of the album’s best drumming work is present here. This is a brilliant song, and a great precursor to what is to come. It’s about the average length for songs on the album (not including the opener, obviously), and while it’s fantastic, what comes next is somehow even better.
“Sta To Radis, Buldozeru Jeden” (You, Buldozer, What Are You Doing) is my favorite song on the album. After hearing this song as a sample on this site, I knew I had to have the album, and even got the inkling that it could possibly earn one of my rare five star ratings (which, as you may have noticed, it has). It tells of a Bulldozer (or a person named Buldozer, perhaps?) that eats beef soup, only to be attacked by a bull that accuses him of “eating my mama.” Absolutely brilliant, and the music’s even better. It starts off with more of Brecelj’s chanting for the first minute or so, interspersed with the band banging on things. Then the “real” music kicks in, a perfect mix of just about everything, backed (or led?) by Brecelj’s vocals. This is also the most “prog” song on the album, going through several mood and style changes throughout the song. What I am about to say can be used to describe this entire album, really, but is especially applicable to this particular track: it has to be heard to be believed, which is why I urge you to sample it on this site. If you like it, you’ll probably love the album. If you don’t like it, you probably won’t enjoy this album.
For the next song, Buldozer stray from traditional prog territory and go for a blues approach, but they prove they can make it just as engaging as the very best of prog. Even my father, who greatly enjoys blues, thinks this is a good blues track (but then again, he also greatly enjoys prog, so…), though he was a bit put off by the vomiting at the end (which I think is brilliant). This song, “Blues Gnjus,” is a fun song about a man who loves all creatures, and so lets all sorts of germs and viruses into his head, saying, “enough blood for all of you, my beasties.” Of course, at the end, he vomits, his body’s attempt to fight off the results of his own stupidity. Brecelj’s performance on vocals here is perhaps the most “normal” on the album, but he still injects into it his own unique flair. As I mentioned, this song isn’t particularly prog, but even I, dedicated listener to prog and pretty much only prog, love it. I never listen to just straight blues, with this song being the notable exception (if anything about this band can truly be called “straight”).
The next two songs are the satires of love I mentioned. Apparently (according to Seyo’s excellent review), you need to speak the language to really get this aspect of it (because of the wordplay), and I unfortunately expect that that’s correct, but what I can appreciate is the stunning quality of the music. On the first, “Ljubav Na Prvi Krevet” (Love At First Bed), we are treated to strange vocals, ranging from Brecelj echoing himself to Brecelj grunting, and just about everything in between, too. There is almost a subtle beauty present here, but my knowledge of what the lyrics are like prevents me from calling anything on this album truly beautiful. Around three and three quarter minutes into the song, we are treated to some great guitar work as the song climaxes. This is the shortest full-length song on the album, but it suffers nothing from this, and indeed makes great use of its time, never overstaying its welcome.
The last track ranks up with “Sta To Radis, Buldozeru Jeden” as my favorite on the album. “Yes My Baby No” (I don’t think that title needs translating) is the Elvis rocker I described before, incredibly funky and catchy, and absolutely brilliant. The vocals are off the wall, and this song features the only English lyrics on the album (though the English portion of the lyrics consists only of permutations of the lines “yes my baby no” and “no, I don’t want to be here”). Brecelj is a monster on this track, as is the bassist, and the guitars, of course, are admirable. All of these work together to create some of the most infectious melodies I’ve ever heard. Don’t let my description of it as catchy and infectious dissuade you from trying it, because this is one of the rare cases I’ve found where catchiness is a virtue. It’s certainly no easy affair, it just sticks in my head like gum to a shoe (no matter how hard I pull, it doesn’t come off… of course, I’ve never tried getting it out of my head). This track will suck you in and never let go, and in that respect, it probably would have worked best in the conventional position of first on the album. But this is no conventional record. It is an outrageously “out there” affair that seeks to throw you off your guard at every turn. So, naturally, Buldozer place the song most likely to start you off enjoying the album at the end. Good for them. Oh, and before I forget, this song goes through plenty of changes, keeping even the devoted prog fan interested.
So there you have it, Buldozer’s 1975 debut, Pljuni Istini U Oci (Let’s Face the Truth), one of the greatest albums I’ve ever heard. It’s very rare that an album of this caliber comes along, and thus, while it will be hard to find, you should shell out whatever you can afford for this album. One you won’t regret (assuming you like the sample track on the site). I got their second album at roughly the same time as this one, and I was disappointed. It’s not bad, but it has nothing on this masterpiece. It’s revolutionary, fun, off the wall, infectious, insane, and delightful, to point out some of the words I’ve used in this review already. Just get it.