by Devon Wendell
Russia’s own Mumiy Troll set The Roxy on fire on Wednesday night May 14th — not literally, but almost. Though this is their first US tour, the band was founded in the early ’80s by leadman Ilya Lagutenko, performing only erratically over the next decade. But since the release of their first official album, “Utekai,” in 1997 they’ve been considered one of Russia’s most influential rock groups, often dubbed “The Rolling Stones of Eastern Europe.”
The group took the stage in celebration of their debut U.S. album, “Comrade Ambassador,” as well as the use of their song, “V Jetom Svett” (“In Our World”), in the controversial Russian film, “Dead End Falls” (2009), directed by Gouzalia Sharaf, who was also present to witness the festivities at the Roxy.
Mumiy Troll (Ilya Lagutenko, vocals, guitar, keyboards; Yuri Tsaler, guitar, keyboards; Eugene Zvidionny, bass; and Oleg Pungin, drums) started their set with “Yadernye Stantsii” (“Nuclear Stations”), a bleak, post-punk, Clash-like anthem. Lagutenko’s surprisingly youthful, ADHD-like enthusiasm was present from the first note as he pranced around the stage in a white sailor’s suit with the bawdy energy of an early ’70’s Mick Jagger.
The song “Muzykant” (“Musician”) displayed the quartet’s sense of cohesion and mutual devotion. On the adventurous “Prospali” (“We Overslept”), Lagutenko played a funky melody on a compact synthesizer with what appeared to be a pen and mouthpiece device, looking like an electronic melodica designed for Darth Vader. The rhythms of bassist Zvidionny, interlocking with the steady pulse of Pungin’s drumming on the piece, “Pyanaya Struna” ( “Drunken String”), gave the music a haunting, trance-like feel as the overflow audience sang along with every well-punctuated chorus. “O Paradiso” was another audience favorite, with their enthusiastic chanting almost drowning out Lagutenko’s intense vocal.
Though Mumiy Troll’a visual presentation appeared “happy, joyous, and free,” there was a dark, ennui lurking beneath their mostly minor key compositions. This was especially well-exemplified in “Pospi Rock n Roll” (“Sleep Rock’ N’ Roll”) which was the perfect showcase for Yuri Tsaler’s The Edge-meets-Tony Iommi for a “Season in Hell” guitar stylings, with its whammy bar, dive bomb rhythms and feedback-drenched leads. Lagutenko added some tasty acoustic guitar playing, bringing the set to a climactic halt.
Ever minute of Mumiy Troll’s performance moved and expanded with a growing sense of adventure and originality, and Lagutenko’s energy was totally infectious. The loyal crowd (seemingly made up of people of all nationalities) didn’t let the language barrier get in the way of enjoying a truly captivating performance. To quote one satisfied fan, “I don’t speak a word of Russian, but this was the best set I’ve heard here. Mumiy Troll rocks.”