Review in Belgium | Press | Privet Earth
Review in Belgium

6/9/2011

In essence, this ought to be a re-acquaintance review, as TSM already promoted this Russian artist's first American album. Somehow, we did nót get that album back then, and all I can say about that is, better late than never!
Ivan Smirnov was born in Saint Petersburg, but raised in the small city of Vologda (situated some 565 km East from St. Petersburg and 400 km North of Moskow), and was heavily influenced by American/ British Rock music of the '60 and '70s (with some idolation of Guns 'n' Roses on the side) from a very young age, which led him to write his first songs in English at the age of 8. He studied classical piano for 5 years, and during that time got an interest in the electric guitar. Ages 19 only, he'd written and recorded a full-length album, self-produced and released in Russia. But his dream had always been to go international, and moving to no other place than Los Angeles was the way to go for him! Although far from being the monetary mogul (one might even say he was economically challenged), he eventually made it to sunny California, although at first he sure saw a lot of “black snow”, even one day finding himself outside a certain hamburger joint (no free promotion for thóse bastards) in Burbank with his only possession on earth at that moment (his guitar) to make some money in order to survive.

But he didn't give up, and his explosive performances made impressions upon everyone whom came to hear his music. Somehow or other he came in contact with producer Robb Vallier (see Bon Jovi's Blaze Of Glory, Paul McCartney, Eurythmics, Whaling Souls), whom not only recorded Ivan's first demos, but also became his steady bassist. Other people becoming members of his band are cellist Tina Guo, and drummer Mike Fix. Together, they recorded Smirnov's debut album Privet Earth in late 2009, releasing the album in early 2010 to somewhat divided criticism. On the one hand, there's those who don't like him at all, on the other side there's those who can recognize talent and extraordinary style when they hear it. Sure enough, here's also those who simply whimper at the fact that there's a retro touch in Smirnov's music, but once one actually takes the trouble to listen to Ivan's vocal antics (you'll find him doin' the wackiest things with that voice, goin' from one side of the note bar to the other with amazing ease), and recognizes that there's an element of craziness in much of the music too (the cello is actually present in most of the songs, and in my view brings a link to Ivan's Russian heritage), one finds oneself lost in awe at what this fella does! As mentioned before, the media were divided on this one, and when the artist was put on the voting ballot for the Grammys in late 2010 (in the categories “Best Rock Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals”, with the songs “The Sunshine Never Cries” and “”The Saddest Boy In The World”...and for “Best Song” with “the Saddest Boy...”), he sadly didn't make the nominations. However, he was up against Muse, one of his favorite bands, so he didn't really mind losing out on them. You know, perhaps you too should simply have a listen yourselves? You can find music by Smirnov at (www.) smirnovmusic.com (also a video for “Phuken Angel” there) and at (www.) myspace.com/rockjusticemusic. Remember my warning: at first Ivan's vocal styling’s can come over pretty awkward...but as far as I'm concerned he sure gets First Price for originality!!!

Right...well, as you've perhaps gathered, Smirnov follows up its debut album with a brand-new single, a 3-tracker including the songs “Ice Orkestra” and “Forest Queen”, the third song being an alternate mix of “Ice Orkestra”. All songs are a confirmation of the style already displayed on the debut, meaning you get a nice mix of '70/ '80s Hard Rock and Classical with progressive twists and vocals styling’s to-di-for! Let's give Smirnov his due place in our year-lists, shall we?!

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