I find it a bit funny that it is me who shares Polish music, because I used to hate it for years. That's because either the lyrics irritated me (even the intelligent ones - I dislike poetry), or the fact our biggest hits were all rock music, and I've started to enjoy rock really late. Paradoxically, it was oldschool goth which helped me to see value of our old music, as it gave me love to this distinctive bass line and guitar riffs. Later two gothy Polish albums taught me three things: that our widely known and loved rock classics are all perfect post-punk, that with such ice-cold melodies the lyrics can appeal to me - and that we have nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to 80s music. I've heard once Eastern European rock differs a lot from Western - care to give it a try?
Bawi mnie trochę to, że akurat ja udostępniam naszą muzykę, ponieważ przez długie lata nienawidziłam polskiej twórczości. Bo albo teksty mnie drażniły (nawet te inteligentne - nie lubię poezji), albo rockowa stylistyka klasyki, a mi rock zaczął się podobać niebywale późno. Paradoksalnie w odkryciu wartości naszej starej muzyki pomogło mi wsiąkniecie w oldschoolowy gotyk, bo z niego wyciągnęłam zamiłowanie do tego charakterystycznego brzmienia basu i gitary. Potem dwie okołogotyckie polskie płyty uświadomiły mi trzy rzeczy: że nasza rockowa klasyka to perfekcyjny post-punk, że w otoczce tak lodowatych melodii teksty potrafią mi się podobać - i że pod względem utworów z lat 80 nie mamy się czego wstydzić.
Nie będzie w tych wpisach dużo tekstu, a przynajmniej nie po polsku, bo nie widzę sensu w pisaniu o czymś, co wszyscy doskonale znacie, rozumiecie, a być może też lubicie. Przy tworzeniu tej kompilacji podpierałam się trochę się Trójkowym Polskim Topem Wszech Czasów, ale dobierałam wszystko pod kątem interesujących melodii.
Unfortunately, it's impossible to speak about Polish music of the 80s without political background, so allow me to write a little about it. Modern history is way outside my interests, though, so it will be quick.
After the World War II Poland became a part of the Eastern Bloc, which meant all ties to the world outside the Iron Curtain were cut. Communism was a fine mess on its own, but it seems like during the 80s everything was especially strained and waiting to erupt. An introduction of a martial law and military dictatorship with curfew hours for 1,5 year. An increasing number of strikes and their brutal pacification. Food rationing and economical crisis. A first rock festival, where punk rock have emerged, which the government tried to control at all costs, but couldn't.
Because of all of this a bigger part of Polish rock music of this decade is very involved politically. The government, however, had a means to halt it: the censorship of information and art before anything was published. Those, who wouldn't conform, couldn't publish their albums and played their anti-establishment songs only on gigs. Other artists wrote highly metaphorised lyrics. But, basically, yes - if it's not about love, then it's about politics. Sometimes it's both about love and politics in the same words. And everything is post-punk. And everyone knows these songs. They often can be heard on the radio to this day. I've done this compilation with a slight help of Polish Best Of All Times playlist by our most worthwhile radio station, but my main criterion was an interesting melody.
Republika - Biała flaga (White flag)
Republika is our legendary band. The song above is their best known, a true cult classic from the top three of the aforementioned playlist. If you were to listen to only one song from this entry or from the whole series I've planned - please let it be this one. It has a sick piano solo instead of guitar one and I've always loved the singer's clear articulation of nasal vowels - nobody in Poland speaks like this, it's linguistic hypercorrection, but I find it lovely as it emphasizes the weird sounds our language has.
Lyrics: It's about losing friends from the days of youth, friends who shared rebellious views with the singer - and then seeing them once again after many years, only to discover they 'with white flags' have surrendered to the system. But it's very metaphorical. The singer was in opinion of many (including me) a best lyricist we ever had. Polish music lost a lot with his untimely death...
Maanam - Boskie Buenos (Divine Buenos)
It is said a first performance of this song on festival stage started the rock revolution in Poland. Big deal, you know? Maanam was a debuting band back then and quickly became a superstar with lots of well known hits. I love the singer's killer Siouxsie-like voice, it's definitely one of my favourite local bands, although I prefer their later, less punky and more atmospheric, style (which I'll share during the series, worry not).
Lyrics: Mainly silly, it's a fictional interview given by a pretentious celebrity with equally pretentious Latin-sounding nickname to a nosy and narrow-minded journalist. Singing about champagne and travelling all over Europe and to Buenos Aires in 80s Poland, oh my.
Kult - Polska (Poland)
It takes a bit of audacity to call your band 'Cult' and then write a song which becomes a cult classic and ends up in the top three. Remember what I wrote at the beginning about the censorship banning songs, so they could be played only on gigs? Well, say hello to Kult. No metaphors, just merciless satire, both in 80s and later in the 90s, where the lyrics became especially caustic and vulgar. Because of this I used to be prejudiced towards this band, but this song made me reconsider. Just listen to this dark bassline and insane weeping guitar riff (and a saxophone solo, if you're into it) - and try to tell me Polish post-punk can't compete with Western, I dare you.
Lyrics: I LOVE THEM. They deal with Polish mentality of hypocrisy and mediocrity, and how it's tied to Poland being a nasty place both when it comes to people and the way cities look. 'Have you ever been at our train station at night? It's so dirty and ugly your eyeballs explode.' Funny - I've heard this song for the first time sometime after 2000 and I didn't know it was old. The lyrics were painfully actual, despite the song being at least 13 years old. 17 years later and the only difference is that eyeballs don't explode anymore from looking at the train stations...
Lady Pank - Mniej niż zero (Less than zero)
Like the band's name could suggest - it sounds a bit punkish. Still a great hit,
though I was surprised to find it on a way lower position on the playlist than the song below, the more you know, and one of the most popular bands of the 80s. I don't know what sorcery prevented this song from being censored to hell and back, because it's obvious what it's about and many other innocent songs fell victim to bureaucratic paranoia. Also - hypercorrectness and clear articulation, my!
Lyrics: It doesn't matter if you're educated, have the means and will to do something, because there are some who will weigh your value and find you worth less than nothing. And now I ask - is it about the government worth nothing for the people, or the people for the government? Either way, I have no idea how it escaped the censorship, but was a good decision to make.
Aya RL - Skóra (Leather jacket)
One hit wonder, but an important one, considered by many to be a hymn of that generation's youth. I myself dislike it, because the singer's feeble boy voice irritates the hell out of me (while doing research for this entry I've discovered who this singer is and it turned out I know him from a different band from the 90s, where he had a definitely aggressive voice >D). Even the band itself disliked this song. It has nice synthesizers and guitar, though.
Lyrics: Intolerance towards subculture youth. 'Look, baby, 'tis the civilized world' - says a boy in a leather jacket to his girlfriend as passers-by look at them with hate, elbow them and finally spit the girl in her face. The boy snaps and breaks the nose of the attacker - and suddenly it's all his fault, he's the aggresive delinquent, because he dared to look differently.
And now the singer is a populist right-wing politician. Talk about changing views.