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July 18, 2010

The first time I listened “Privet Earth!” by Smirnov I thought to myself, “What is this? 1989? This Rock style went out 20 years ago.” I promptly set the disc down and moved on with my life. About four or five hours later I put the cd back on and tried again, I am a professional after all and the world needs my opinions. The second time around I thought to myself, “Who is singing? It sounds like Mike Patton from Faith No More and that guy from the 80’s hair band Jackal got together with Alexander Ovechkin and had a love child that they immediately decided to start beating. “Not bad”, I thought to myself as I turned it off again and went on with my life. That’s when something weird happened. I was drawn back to it like a moth to a flame. I turned it on for the 3rd time and thought, “This guys got something here. This actually is great. Phuk yeah!” I didn’t hear it the first time. That magic, that entertaining showmanship that somehow comes across without ever seeing his face. Ivan Smirnov has something that makes you believe he is the savoir of rock music.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I’m not sure how it happened but I’m ready to elect Ivan Smirnov for President. If he ever puts together a cult I’ll be the first in line as long as he is giving me new music. He and his album Privet Earth! are like cigarettes. I, being a former smoker, will describe it to you non-smokers like this. Your first drag from a cigarette is odd and the taste you have in you mouth afterwards is comparable to having licked the floor of your local tavern. Still for some reason, be it hours or days, you have another one, it tastes a little better. Soon you find yourself ready to harvest the kidneys of your sleeping friend in order to get money for another pack. Privet Earth! is your new habit. It’s more fun than any Rock album has been in a long time. It’s as if Ivan has, in his Russian genius, invented a time machine and went back through rock history and took a masters course in writing music that’s layered with genius and lyrics that are like riddles in which words are missing and there is a wonderful disconnect between lines. The great thing about good song lyrics is that they rarely spell out where they are going; think Steven Tyler and Axl Rose. Great song lyrics are like surprise party guests and shouldn’t reveal themselves too soon or else the build up is lost.

The music on Privet Earth! is great Modern Rock with a dose of Hard Rock that makes it damn near irresistible like a donut to a fat man with a sweet tooth. Ivan’s vocals are unreal. True rock singers don’t come along very often. The Steven Tyler’s, Axl Rose’s, and David Bowie’s of this world have something that sets them apart from the rest of the pack. Whatever that something is be it style, attitude, or the voice itself, Ivan has it. He seamlessly goes from a nice Rock vocal to a wail that could melt polar ice caps to a falsetto that is cotton candy for the ears. There are people who are born to rock and Smirnov is in that exclusive club.

His Album Privet Earth! combines all of his influences which, as he told me via facebook emails, include The Beatles, David Bowie, Led Zeppelin, and Elton John to the late 80’s great rock vocalist like Axl Rose. He also sited the creativity of Sting and the influence of current bands like Muse and Phoenix. He lovingly puts all these sounds into his big Russian blender and pours out a complete album of way above average Rock for you to drink down with a hearty smile and a refreshing AHHH. The songs, which were all written by Ivan, feature him on piano, guitar and of course vocals. He is helped greatly on his journey to rock god status by Mike Fix on drums, Rob Vallier on bass, and Tina Guo on cello. The music they create is the perfect mixture of the best elements of rock music past, present, and future. Songs like “A Phuken’ Angel” grab a hold of you and remind you that rock is supposed to be fast and fun! While the slow build of “Le Matin Dans Bordeax”, which features just vocal, piano, and a cello, shows you how beautiful it can be when someone who has a great voice sings his ass off. “Big City” is more infectious than crabs in a college frat house. “Rebelz” gets stuck in your head like a tattoo on your brain as it features every instrument turned up to Spinal Taps legendary “11” as they whip through one of the best songs on the album. Each song is like a planet rotating on its own axis around Ivan in the galaxy Privet Earth.

After listening to the album for the tenth time I am left though with one great question. Is Ivan Smirnov the lucky cavemen who accidently discovered fire or is he the pure genius of Albert Einstein with his Theory of Relativity? I can’t believe that someone could put together an album this good by chance. The “monkeys with typewriters creating a great novel” idea doesn’t work here. With the aid of legendary producer Rob Vallier (Bon Jovi, Paul McCartney, and the Eurythmics) he creates fire to move the world of Rock forward into the next generation. Let’s face facts; you have to be driven like a crazy man to move 12,000 miles from home, St. Petersburg, Russia, to Los Angles in hopes of fulfilling your dream of becoming a rock star. In his bio Ivan talks about being homeless in front of McDonalds in Burbank with only his guitar. Anyone who can survive that and still want to pursue there dream must be a bit off balance which, as we have learned thought the study of musical history is one of the great qualities of amazing musicians.

Rock bands should always remember it’s about the music but, it is also about the personalities that bring you the music. Kick ass Rock brought to you by a bunch of uninteresting librarians isn’t fun. There needs be an element of rock music that should be fun and outlandish with an even mixture of over the top attitude and style that makes it a less Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band and more Willy Wonka’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Simply said, Smirnov deserves your attention. He has released an album that easily exceeds the standard of rock today let alone the standard of unsigned rock today. Listen now so you can say you knew him when…

Doug Morrissey

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