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THE PLASTIC PEOPLE OF THE UNIVERSE

RIO/Avant-Prog • Czech Republic


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The Plastic People of the Universe biography
"What's it like making rock n' roll in a police state? The same as anywhere else, only harder. Much harder" (Paul Wilson, Musician magazine, 1983)

THE PLASTIC PEOPLE OF THE UNIVERSE were a rather innovative but otherwise unexceptional post-psychedelic band. They wouldn't likely stand out in the history of modern music were it not for their completely remarkable story of persistence in the shadow of suppression behind the Iron Curtain in post-'Prague Spring' Czechoslovakia. Their story is one of vision, and serves as a symbol of the power of human will in the face of soulless oppression.

The Plastics were born amid the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in late 1968. They were formed by bassist Milan Hlavsa, already a veteran of local bands THE UNDERTAKERS, NEW ELECTRIC POTATOES, and FIERY FACTORY. Hlavsa recruited former schoolmates Jiří Stevich, Michal Jernek, and drummer Pavel Zeman into the original lineup. In addition to a repertoire of VELVET UNDERGROUND, DOORS, and MOTHERS OF INVENTION covers, the band distinguished themselves with garish face paint, satin togas, and wild original compositions that made up in energy what they lacked in style or complexity.

In the spring of 1969 the band enlisted PRIMITIVES GROUP veteran Ivan Jirous as artistic director, and added former TEENAGERS violist Jiří Kabes the following year. Around the same time Jirous enlisted the help of Canadian language teacher Paul Wilson to provide vocals and to teach the band English lyrics for their compositions. 1972 also saw the addition of saxophonist Vratislav Brabenec.

The Plastics endured many years of government harassment and persecution, all while continuing to develop their sound and an ardent following while cementing their place as fathers of the Czech musical underground. Having lost state sanction as professional musicians early in the Soviet occupation the band often appeared in the guise of amateur entertainment at weddings, dances and family parties, as well as in the occasional underground festival. Their equipment was often laboriously hand-made, and rehearsals were usually conducted without amplification in the secrecy of friend's and family's crowded apartments. Arrangements were typically practiced as individual parts, with the combined works being put together in impromptu fashion only on those rare occasions when the band found themselves with an opportunity to perform on stage.

The band managed to record t...
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  • The Plastic People of the Universe at Divadlo Archa, Praha on 5 Sep 2014
  • - Magoruv Smíchov - on 20 Sep 2014
  • The Plastic People of the Universe at Vagon Music Club, Praha on 22 Oct 2014
  • The Plastic People of the Universe at U Voka, Praha 3 on 14 Dec 2014
  • The Plastic People of the Universe at Vagon Music Club, Praha on 27 Dec 2014
  • The Plastic People of the Universe at Divadlo Archa, Praha on 12 Jun 2015

THE PLASTIC PEOPLE OF THE UNIVERSE discography


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THE PLASTIC PEOPLE OF THE UNIVERSE top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.45 | 22 ratings
Egon Bondy's Happy Hearts Club Banned
1978
2.52 | 8 ratings
Jak bude po smrti
1979
4.02 | 10 ratings
Pasijové hry velikonoční/Passion Play
1980
3.65 | 8 ratings
Co znamená vésti koně
1981
4.10 | 11 ratings
Kolejnice duní
1982
4.10 | 11 ratings
Hovězí porázka
1984
4.07 | 9 ratings
Půlnoční mys
1986
3.00 | 3 ratings
Maska Za Maskou
2009

THE PLASTIC PEOPLE OF THE UNIVERSE Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.00 | 3 ratings
Bez ohňů je underground
1992
4.00 | 1 ratings
1997
1997
4.00 | 2 ratings
Líně S Tebou Spím / Lazy Love
2001
3.00 | 1 ratings
The Plastic People of The Universe & Agon Orchestra - Pasijové hry / Passion Play
2004

THE PLASTIC PEOPLE OF THE UNIVERSE Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

THE PLASTIC PEOPLE OF THE UNIVERSE Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.08 | 5 ratings
Ach to státu hanobení
1977
3.92 | 5 ratings
Vozralej jak slíva
1997
3.09 | 4 ratings
Muz bez usí
1998
0.00 | 0 ratings
10 let Globusu aneb underground v kostce
2000
0.00 | 0 ratings
Trouble Every Day
2002
3.00 | 1 ratings
Obesel já polí pět (with Agon Orchestra)
2010
0.00 | 0 ratings
Magical Nights
2010

THE PLASTIC PEOPLE OF THE UNIVERSE Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
For Kosovo
1997

THE PLASTIC PEOPLE OF THE UNIVERSE Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Obesel já polí pět (with Agon Orchestra) by PLASTIC PEOPLE OF THE UNIVERSE, THE album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2010
3.00 | 1 ratings

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Obesel já polí pět (with Agon Orchestra)
The Plastic People of the Universe RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by snobb
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

— First review of this album —
3 stars This compilation contains live recordings from 2003, when Plastic People of The Universe played the show both together with another Czech band - Agon Orchestra, some studio archive recordings and bonus DVD.

Music there is alternative mix of chamber rock, some free jazz (especially sax soloing) and theatrics show. And if quite often live recordings show another, more emotional side of many artists, it happens there for good and for bad.

Biggest problem I have with this album is being not pure concert, but more theatrical show, there are plenty of lyrics (in Czech, and my minimal knowledge of this language doesn't help much) , which is important part and component of all show. While me (as many other listeners) can't understand and possibly enjoy this part, all other recording sound more as bulky collection of not very related between each other pieces with long narrative breaks between them. Such structure hardly destroy impression (at least for non-Czech speaking listener).

Speaking about music itself, most of all I like there some sax free jazz soloing over the chamber string combo playing. Strings sounds quite good as well, but I missed whole musical composition feeling (again, the possible reason is narrative lyrics separating musical compositions to single pieces).

With some great moments on it, this release is hardly representative for band's best musical moments and could be more interesting to fans and collectors.

My rating is 2,5, rounded to 3.

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 The Plastic People of The Universe & Agon Orchestra - Pasijové hry / Passion Play by PLASTIC PEOPLE OF THE UNIVERSE, THE album cover Live, 2004
3.00 | 1 ratings

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The Plastic People of The Universe & Agon Orchestra - Pasijové hry / Passion Play
The Plastic People of the Universe RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

— First review of this album —
3 stars This is the live version of their 1980 studio album and performed as a tribute to their deceased bass player Milan Hlavsa. A 20 piece orchestra helps out on this 2004 release.This does sound quite different from their eighties albums as we don't have that catchy rhythm of bass and horns. Perhaps that's because of the subject matter on this concept album. I'll use the English song titles provided but the vocals are in their native Czeck language.

'Exodus" opens with the audience clapping before sounds and outbursts come and go including orchestral ones. It turns dark with sparse sounds. Nice. Spoken words before 5 minutes to the end. "For It Is The Lord's Supper" has this beat as passionate spoken words join in. Vocals follow and they come and go along with the spoken words. "The Sermon On The Mount" is dissonant to open then a calm arrives. It's dark as spoken words come and go both male and female.

"What Need Have We Of A King" has these almost spoken words with a beat and horns. It blends into "I Am Innocent Of Blood" as this sound continues. "I Have Sinned" opens with horns. It's dark and vocals follow with percussion. Percussion only to end it as it blends into "Trinity" where the piano joins the percussion. Strings and vocals join in. It's intense and eerie. It lightens late and blends into "Father !". It settles quickly with spoken words. It then picks up with vocals. Spoken words and guitar follow as contrasts continue. A fair amount of piano too. Dissonant horns after 8 minutes. "Dark Night" opens with strings with a beat. Guitar before 3 1/2 minutes. Dissonant horns come in. Spoken words after 7 1/2 minutes with no music. A loud yell ends it then we get applause from the crowd.

3.5 stars. I may bump this up but again because it's a concept album I feel the music takes a back seat at times to the narration. Lots of great passages here though regardless.

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 Půlnoční mys by PLASTIC PEOPLE OF THE UNIVERSE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1986
4.07 | 9 ratings

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Půlnoční mys
The Plastic People of the Universe RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

4 stars I'm sure most thought this would be the last studio album for the band as it was released back in 1986. Well not so fast as they released a new one last year.The title of this particular album i'm reviewing means "Midnight Mouse" and that is one cool album cover. THE PLASTIC PEOPLE OF THE UNIVERSE is to ryhthm as CAN is to groove. I just can't get over how catchy the rhythm is on just about every track. And what makes it interesting of course are the strings and horns which help in this regard. Add those reserved Czech vocals and you have a band that is truly unique. Just to clarify,we get clarinet, trombone and bass clarinet for horns and violin, cello and viola for strings.

"Pulnocni Mys" is all about that rhythm including some different sounding guitar as horns join in followed by vocals before a minute. Strings late. Catchy stuff. Check out the bass ! "Ruka / Co Zde Snim A Co Zde Vypiju" is mid paced as strings join in quickly then reserved vocals and horns. "Mlady Holky" opens with chunky bass and horns. Very cool sound here. Strings then vocals follow. Excellent track. "Leze" opens with percussion before vocals and strings take over with cymbals. Contrasts continue. Nice. "Podvlikacky" opens with horns and flute as strings help out with that beat.Vocals join in.This is uptempo and catchy. Love the bass before 3 1/2 minutes. Huge ! The rhythm is so catchy too. "Vrati Se" is a short piece that opens with vocals that yell. Killer bass ! Horns are prominant too. Strings 2 minutes in.

"Podel Zdi A Doleva" opens with strings then it picks up quickly and vocals arrive after a minute. A catchy rhythm once again is the highlight. "Z Kouta Do Kouta" is catchy with the strings over top. Vocals join in and when this ends he's out of breath. "Zpiva" opens with vocals that sort of laugh with the rhythm. Cool. Spoken vocals follow as the rhythm continues with strings over top. Outstanding. "Pokouseni" is the 23 minute closer. It's different because we get spoken words that will come and go all the way through and in between we get that ever so catchy rhythm that starts after 5 1/2 minutes. Just an incredible track that works regardless of the spoken words I don't understand. I'd like to think he says some humerous things though by his tone.The song's last 6 minutes are like the opening 6 minutes.

A solid 4 stars for this mouse.

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 Hovězí porázka by PLASTIC PEOPLE OF THE UNIVERSE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1984
4.10 | 11 ratings

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Hovězí porázka
The Plastic People of the Universe RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

4 stars THE PLASTIC PEOPLE OF THE UNIVERSE are a legendary band from the Czech Republic who were hassled, jailed and beaten by the communist government. They even had their house burnt down, all for making music that wasn't government approved. The album's title means "Beefslaughter" and the album's cover is pretty gross looking and is related to the title. I am so happy with the music here. I was dreading that it would be that depressing, minimalistic stuff that they used on the previous record "Co Znamena Vesti Kone".Thankfully it's more in the style of their masterpiece "Egon Bondy's Happy Hearts Club Banned". So yeah this is a lot of fun and catchy, but with clarinet, bass clarinet, drums, viola and violin leading the way you wouldn't think so right ?

"Sel Pro Krev" opens with bass clarinet, violin and a catchy rhythm.This sounds great ! It's got a lot of bottom end, even the vocals are alto. Some dissonance around 3 minutes and later at 4 1/2 minutes.There are keyboards in this one too which is a nice touch. "Prasinec" sounds even better with bass clarinet and violin and a really good rhythm section.Vocals before 1 1/2 minutes and we get some flute 3 minutes in as well. "Kanarek" puts the focus on the vocals early but we still get the ever-present violin, viola, clarinet, bass clarinet and that rhythm section. He yells a few times on this one which sounds amazing believe it or not.

"Nenakist Vola K Reznickymu Psu" is more uptempo and the vocals come and go. "Petrin" has lots of strings and vocals that come and go.That beat too of course and guitar this time. "Moucha V Rannim Pive" has pulsating clarinet as violin and a beat support. This sounds incredible. "Bleskem Do Hlavy" has such a good rhythm to it, like a train, then vocals and dissonance come in. "Spatna Vec" is uptempo with vocals, drums and horns. It settles some 2 minutes in with guitar then picks back up. Violin after 3 1/2 minutes. "Papirovy Hlavy" has a more laid back beat with horns and violins. Dissonance ends it.

An easy 4 stars and a joy to listen to.

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 Co znamená vésti koně by PLASTIC PEOPLE OF THE UNIVERSE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1981
3.65 | 8 ratings

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Co znamená vésti koně
The Plastic People of the Universe RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

3 stars This was a big disappointment after their amazing debut from 1978.This album was released in 1981 and is much more restrained and solemn.The humour and dynamics of the debut that I loved so much are gone leaving us with a dry and melancholic album overall.

"Co Znamena Vest Kone" has this repetitive beat as vocals and viola come and go.There's quite a depressing mood to this one. Get used to it. "Slovo Ma Na Buben" is solemn with mono- toned vocals. It kicks in after 2 minutes with theatrical vocals then it settles again. It's solemn again before 4 1/2 minutes. "Samson" is better as the drums pound with vocals and viola singing and playing over top. Spoken words before 2 minutes are brief then it's back to the singing. "P.F." has a cool rhythm as outbursts of vocals and yelling come and go. "Majova" features viola and clarinet. Some brief vocals then viola and drums lead the rest of the way.

"Delirium" has more viola and drums as vocals come and go. "Fotopneumaticka Pamet" has these almost spoken words and a beat and he speaks out a few hallelujahs along the way. This goes on for way too long. "Rozvaha Neuskodi Ani Kureti" is fairly slow paced with vocals, viola and a beat. "Mse" has some life to start but settles quickly with viola and vocals. Clarinet and drums too. "Osip" is the longest track at over 11 minutes. Almost spoken words over a bleak soundscape until it starts to pick up a little 3 minutes in when the vocals stop. The sax and bass become prominant. I miss the chunky bass that was so out front on the debut, well here it is finally. The song slowly slows right down.

A tough listen but I know i'm comparing it too much to the debut.

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 Egon Bondy's Happy Hearts Club Banned by PLASTIC PEOPLE OF THE UNIVERSE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1978
4.45 | 22 ratings

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Egon Bondy's Happy Hearts Club Banned
The Plastic People of the Universe RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

5 stars It's really worth it to check out the history of this band and to read what they went through for the sake of playing the music they loved. They were jailed to be made an example of for playing live and they were never allowed to record their music, although recordings were smuggled out the country.They really are folk heroes in the Czech Republic for standing up to the communist regime. When communism fell the new President Vaclav Havel invited them to play a concert. How the times had changed. They named themselves in part from a Zappa tune called "Plastic People".They were big fans of his style of play including the humour. I would describe the music here as having this relentless and catchy drum / bass beat/rhythm that often reminds me of CAN. The difference is the often dissonant sax, guitar and violin that plays over top. Vocals are rough and almost spoken in their own language, but it fits the style of music perfectly. I love the cover picture that includes Czech poet Egon Bondy who's words are used throughout this album, he himself had his poems and writings banned by the communist government back then too.

"Twenty" features sax and violin with slowly sung lyrics. Crazy sax before 1 1/2 minutes. "Constipation" has this eerie intro as a rhythm comes in followed by vocals. It picks up before 3 minutes then settles again as sax joins in and rips it up. Amazing ! The vocals are back 7 1/2 minutes. "Toxic Chemicals" has a good rhythm with vocals.The guitar is making some noise after 1 1/2 minutes as the rhythm continues with violin. So good ! "Magical Nights" opens with loud percussion as spacey sounds join in. A change after 1 1/2 minutes as it picks up with vocals. Violin comes in screeching before 2 1/2 minutes. Love this stuff. "M.G.M." has these theatrical vocal expressions and some banging sounds. "Around The Window" opens with bass and percussion as sax comes in screaming. Almost spoken vocals before 3 minutes.The sax is back so loud it echoes.Vocals are back late and the violin ends it. "Elegy" features violin which is joined by a heavy beat then vocals.

"The Wondrous Mandarin" has this crazy rhythm as violin plays over top. Vocals join in. "Nobody" has this great sounding rhythm and it kicks in quickly. Vocals before a minute. The violin starts making noise in the background. "Oh Yeah- How Nicely You Sleep" has clapping, piano and vocals early on. Funny stuff. This is hilarious. Snoring ends it. "Me And Mike" is raw sounding and dissonant.Vocals join in, sax late. "Early Bird" sounds so good with the guitar,violin and vocals. "Fancovka" is catchy with vocals, a beat and guitar. Violin later. The sax is killer. "By One Foot" has a beat with violin and sax playing over top. Nice. "Sofa Blues" has a beat with spoken words. It gets fuller. So incredible. "Apocalyptic Bird" opens with spoken words then it kicks in. Vocals follow, and the sax a minute later is dissonant. Amazing stuff. Check out the slicing violin too. "Conscript's Song" ends it in style. Spoken words as percussion then therimin that is possessed joins in. A beat with violin follows then vocals 2 minutes in as he spits out the words.The tempo picks up a minute later. It then settles back as some themes are repeated.

Without a doubt one of the better Rio / Avant albums i've heard. It's so appealing with that beat and rhythm that i'm consantly tapping my foot or some part of my body, and yet it's also very Avant-garde with those insane horns and violins. Essential listening.

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 Kolejnice duní by PLASTIC PEOPLE OF THE UNIVERSE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1982
4.10 | 11 ratings

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Kolejnice duní
The Plastic People of the Universe RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

3 stars 'Kolejnice duní ' is a collection of Plastic People tracks from 1977-1982, although it isn't a greatest hits record or even an anthology. Rather, these are songs the band recorded in their heyday (so to speak), after Canadian Paul Wilson had left the band and been deported and during the first stint with the group for saxophonist Vratislav Brabenec. That's important because Brabenec was a key influencer in the band moving away from cover tunes of the Fugs, Velvet Underground, Zappa and so forth in favor of original tunes steeped un Czech culture as well as more jazzy and improvisational than their earlier stuff. Brabenec also insisted that band sing only in Czech, as opposed to the English lyrics they briefly adopted with Wilson in the early seventies.

All these songs were recorded in the homes of friends and family of the band including the first two tracks which are believed to have been recorded at the farm home of Václava Havla in 1977 and 1978, before he was jailed by the Soviets for his dissident activities. Havla would of course go on to become President of a democratic Czechoslovakia a decade later and has remained a strong supporter of the band throughout his life. Most of the remaining songs included here were recorded at the home of the parents of percussionist Jan Brabec in 1982.

"100 bodů" is a rambling, mostly dissonant and heavily percussive tribute to the Soviet invasion of 1968 that effectively brought to an the Prague Spring era of comparatively liberal rule under Alexander Dubček. A shorter version appears on the 'Ach to státu Hanobení' collection; that version is a bit more lively while this one features a bit more vocal narrative in the form of poetry recitation and spoken-words in Czech that I assume speak of the 1968 occupation. 'Dopis Magorovi' is nearly as long at almost twenty minutes and is quite similar but with more emphasis on Vratislav Brabenec and his unique mournful, jazzy saxophone work. I'm not sure what the theme is since the words are all in Czech.

"Phil Esposito" is a disjointed ramble of spoken words and hand percussion supposedly recounting the exploits of that hockey player during the 1976 Canadian Cup in which their national team defeated the Czech team. I've no idea why the band felt the need to include this except possibly because the work features several non-band members and may have been intended as a tribute to their support or something. Not sure.

The final three tracks are feature arrangements that are a bit tighter than the first three, more sense of rhythm and discipline and are quite representative of a lot of what the band would record in the eighties and beyond. There are few vocals here, the band instead content to work out brass and percussion passages with snippets of strings and keyboards; all three of these songs are quite well-produced, especially considering the tools and environment the band had at their disposal at the time.

This disc was included on the 8-CD Globus International set released in 2000; there's another version floating around with the same cover but I won't list the catalog number since I'm quite certain it is a bootleg. In any case this probably isn't the best choice for someone who is new to discovering the band, but historically it presents a decent picture of where they were musically in the years after they went underground and before the country achieved independence from the Soviet bloc. I think there are better albums to start with and also better collections, most notably the live '1997' recording and the Globus 10th anniversary 2-disc set which is as hard to find as anything the band recorded but includes nearly every song known to most fans outside of Czechoslovakia. I have to say this one rates no more than three out of five stars, but if you are a serious fan you'll undoubtedly seek this record out at some time, if for no other reason than to complete your collection. Recommended to students of Cold War-era underground music, but for anyone else I'd say make this one of the later Plastic People records you explore.

peace

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 Pasijové hry velikonoční/Passion Play by PLASTIC PEOPLE OF THE UNIVERSE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1980
4.02 | 10 ratings

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Pasijové hry velikonoční/Passion Play
The Plastic People of the Universe RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

4 stars I've really know idea whether the Plastics were religious people; there's little indication from their music other than this record, and not a whole lot of personal information about them in the various articles, interviews and texts that have been published about them. Which leads me to wonder if the band composed and released this album as simply another way to push against the Communist regime occupying post-WWII Czechoslovakia. If so, I think that makes yet another case for the Plastic People of the Universe being the ultimate RIO band, considering this part of their career was marked by performances ranging from Velvet Underground covers to Frank Zappa tributes to Alan Ginsberg poetry to apparently a theme album dedicated to the story of the cruxification of Jesus. Pretty ballsy stuff.

These songs were reportedly recorded in a barn on the farm of playwright and poet Václav Havel in the fall of 1980. Havel was a huge supporter of the band; he would go on to become president of Czechoslovakia and would bring the band out from the underground by inviting them to perform at a huge concert in the very hall used as a police barracks during the Soviet era, but at the time he was in the first year of a five year prison term at the hands of those same police. The Plastics were still banned in 1980 from performing in public after having lost their artistic performer license and been arrested several times over the years for staging unofficial 'festivals' and covert appearances. I've read that the Czech state police surrounded the barn during the recordings to ensure the band did not use the occasion to hold yet another live concert.

The music itself takes a while to get going, with the first several minutes consisting of rather sparse percussion, a little brass and guitar noodling, and disjointed vocal rambling. All the vocals are in Czech so I have to believe the story being told is actually that of the Passion, although I suppose I could be wrong on that point.

Once things start to pick up on "Zhře?il jsem", the Plastics sound really begins to emerge. Vratislav Brabenec has a unique style of dissonant saxophone playing that pays tribute to his influences from everything from the beat generation to the Fugs; I'd like to think I could pick his playing out of just about any recording regardless of who he was playing with. He really dominates the rest of the album from this point on, along with Jan Brabec's drums and percussion and bandleader Milan Hlavsa's dirge-like bass and passionate vocals.

The band shows both their Zappa and jazz leanings with the final two tracks, both typical Plastics compositions that ramble on for a combined twenty minutes consisting of heavily improvised and jazzy instrumental passages centered on Brabenec and Hlavsa but accented with sporadic vocals that are often spoken rather than sung, and snippets of strings thrown in for variety.

This isn't my favorite Plastics album and the first time I heard it I was a bit disappointed by the first ten minutes or so considering there was actually very little music and I thought it was going to turn out to be nothing more than a poetry work set to a minimalist arrangement. But after several listenings I can see that this is yet another solid performance by the band, and as usual under almost unthinkably difficult conditions.

This record has been issued on CD at least twice that I know of, and copies can be found at a reasonable price although you may have to look a little. This was a follow-on to 'Egon Bondy's Happy Hearts Club Banned' and 'Jak bude po smrti' and I'd recommend you listen to it in that order. Four out of five stars and recommended to any Plastics fan as well as anyone who is truly interested in discovering some of the great music that flourished during the waning days of the Soviet era.

peace

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 Egon Bondy's Happy Hearts Club Banned by PLASTIC PEOPLE OF THE UNIVERSE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1978
4.45 | 22 ratings

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Egon Bondy's Happy Hearts Club Banned
The Plastic People of the Universe RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by zappadaddy

5 stars They are included in the book ''UNSUNG HEROES ''written by Richie Utterberger,there are so many articles about Tha Plastic people of The Universe and all of them are true,not very many talk about the music,it makes me wondering,why?Perhaps because their story was so much stronger then music?You can read titles like''the Plastic People did more than almost any other rock band to change the course of world history.'¨or ''Did Plastic People of the Universe topple communism?'' or ''Czechs' Velvet Revolution Paved by Plastic People''The Plastic People Of The Universe were just about the most dangerous force in underground rock of all time'' and ''Unwilling heroes' of the Velvet Revolution ; Czech band braved jail rather than alter lyrics that heralded change¨and so many more.To know more about this band and their music do your homework and read some of the articles on the internet!!! Why to write more?For the sake of music,that's why!

So simple ,but how true these lyrics of the first song ''Twenty''on this legendary album were at that time and place,behind the Iron curtain.

Today when one is twenty He would vomit with repulsion

But those of forty even more Would puke in sheer revulsion

Only those of sixty have it easier They sleep in peace with their amnesia

Very harsh times for people thinking ''absolutely free''.They started like everyone else,wanna be a rock'n'roll stars,but that did not happen.Instead they struggled in their fight for freedom of expression with czech authorities.First played their own psychedelic songs like ''The Universe Symphony And Melody About Plastic Doctor(btw. in my opinion were really really good) documented on album Muz bez u?í and songs from Frank Zappa,Fugs,Velvet Underground,The Doors and others.After deportation of their canadian singer Paul Wilson out of country, they started to compose only their own material strictly in czech language(that was Brabenec condition upon his arrival ) .Their golden era started with arrival of sax player V.Brabenec who brought jazzy elements to their music,his sax work added more tension into PPU's compositions.Brabenec stated ''rock music is too simple'' and so it was.This album Egon Bondy's is considered to be their best album.Unforunately they could not perform in public.Still they kept going and made them stronger,they did not do it for money or fame anymore.(A remote site in the woods near an isolated Bohemian village was picked, word of the location was then passed among friends, whispered from ear to ear. The exact location of the site was never revealed more than one day in advance and sometimes not revealed until that night. Fans would get off at the nearest rail station, then walk miles through the forest and across farms, sometimes for hours in rain or snow, searching for a remote farmhouse or barn. Often, the police would show up all the same and stop the show.by Joseph Yanosik (March 1996)I was not lucky enough,never seen them playing in those years.To attend their shows was very risky and dangerous.But forbidden fruits tastes well and when you ask people now about these times,they will reply how great it was. Back to music, in my opinion no band plays like them(hard to describe their unique style for me but I hear so much emotions and depth which I am missing from other great Rio/Avant rock artists and that makes them so much more powerfull in their music statements).I have read they are grungier version of Mothers of invention,I don't know about that,just listen to this record and see for yourself what they are about.But I am warning you,be prepared for very dark session,you will hear lots of great bass guitar riffs,some beautifull wild sax work,awesome violin plays,some of theremin-home made instrument and intense vocals from now legendary Mejla Hlavsa(sleep in peace).

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 Bez ohňů je underground by PLASTIC PEOPLE OF THE UNIVERSE, THE album cover Live, 1992
4.00 | 3 ratings

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Bez ohňů je underground
The Plastic People of the Universe RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Marty McFly
Special Collaborator Errors and Omissions Team

4 stars Thanks to Hugues for being interested in Czech history (and doing a lot of research on this subject), his review tells the situation and conditions of this band well. I wouldn't be able to tell it better.

Album name means "Without fires is underground", it's reference to one joke from Plastics history. Mejla, then something like frontman once asked Jirous what's the different between psychedelic and underground. Jirous thoroughly explained, but Mejla didn't get it at all and understood it like that you have to have fires in performances to be underground. Or at least that's how I remember it, it may be opposite. However, joke remains a joke.

After they split up in 1988, they reunited in 1992 just for this concert and won't reunite until 1997 again). It is more or less lineup from early ages (even not the first one). The words on cover of this album says: "Live December 1992".

Ivan "Loony" Jirous, manager of the band, is talking (in first, introduction track) about how he's glad that it is opportunity to present Plastics to new generation and that he also see a lot of old fans in audience. Then he is mocking band members a little bit (they're used to do that, it is fun after all).

Then we have three cover tracks, Light My Fire sounds very like the original (without characteristic voice, therefore left with crazy/weird (it's Plastic way, sounds like [and mostly are] drunken) vocals of either Kabe? or Jernek. One of them. And of course, one more prominent thing - strong bass line. Because I know original track very well, I can compare - very well performed.

Though I don't know other two songs, they are quite good as well, even though I like Garden Is Open far more.

And then three "original" tracks. The hell Hugues, you are speaking Czech or not ? You seems to understand lyrics quite well, which of course helps in something like that.

Lyrically, they are ironic, extremely dirty (in a very shocking way, even it's very natural and poetical dirtiness). Podivohudný mandarín starts with words: "You will spread your crotch all your life". It's the part of fun here.

From music point of view, there is solid share of Psychedelia, Avant tendencies (very weird type, but I'm of course concerned Czech Prog researcher from - again - Czech Republic), unique Plastic flavour, which even they are doing covers, shines and guides you on the paths of this underground groups of underdogs who simply wanted to make their music in spite of what commies said (and what they did to them, including beating, in total dozens of years behind bars and bans on doing live gigs officially).

4(+), last three tracks are worth of it, first "real" three tracks are decent.

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