Regina Spektor
Soviet Kitsch

Sire
2005
B-



ey, it's probably best not to spend too much time with Regina Spektor. I mean, she's all about, like, killing herself and people dying and all this sad stuff and it's totally a downer. I know that when she's singing she's just being these characters but sometimes isn't it just a bit much, and who wants to put up with that kind of show?

And here's the other thing: she could like really play the piano but you kind of don't notice it when she's singing because, you know, all she ends up giving us are squeaks and snarls every so often. Like, is she trying to be a punk or a folksinger or a classical musician or what? OMG she's like some twit that showed up a little tipsy at the formal and the proceeded to show off all night at the piano and kept on drinking and I swear she's making up some of these songs as she goes along but nobody seems to mind at first and then you have to force her to go home.

Really, though, it's not like a formal. There's no champagne here at all, cheap or otherwise. Soviet Kitsch is totally wine-in-a-brown-bag music, just for someone in a rented tux. Regina's got this one song called "Poor Little Rich Boy" and it's such a crock. She's like trying to put down this rich kid for being all superficial and tied up in his own self, but she totally blows it by making him have this complex stuff with his mom and his girlfriend and who cares if his girlfriend is or isn't fat, right? (And get this—I heard she was snooty, starting piano at six and training with a music professor and stuff. No wonder she isn't hard on this rich guy.) Anyhow, then she really blows it by pushing it off on his youngness. She gives him an out! WTF? It's almost as if she didn't want to rub it in with this guy, but I'm not even sure what she's talking about.

But there is this one part that really gets me. She does this other song called "Chemo Limo" and talks about some mom dying from cancer who can't even pay her medical bills and like you'd think that's kind of cheesy, but it really made me sad. And then at the end she repeats these lines from the beginning that go, "I had a dream / Crispy crispy Benjamin Franklin came over / And baby-sat all four of my kids" but when it repeats she adds this big piano chords and oh, it gives me chills.

Then there's this Decemberists moment where she sings a song about sailors, but instead of being all adventurous and like old, it's just about this sailor who hates this girl because she kisses but won't really put out which is just so lame. Regina gets them, though, when she makes this joke about huddling with missiles, which is totally about their dicks. It's like these sailors need to just deal and do whatever they need to do with putting it all on this Mary Ann girl. Like the R-rated version of Gilligan or something.

What I don't get is the name of the album, Soviet Kitsch? I heard that "kitsch" is like stuff that's really cheesy and so people buy it for that reason, but like the people who made it didn't try to do it that way. And there's nothing like that here because Regina so knows what she's doing, like when she repeats "a walk" over and over until it sounds like Fozzy Bear. And there's definitely nothing Soviet here. I don't care where she was born—that girl is from Brooklyn. So, like, if it's just American and it's just like her looking at these made-up lives what's so Soviet or so kitsch about that. Does she think she's saying something about life or is she just screwing around on the piano? I mean, really!

Anyway, I'm totally going to make you listen to this when you come over.


Reviewed by: Justin Cober-Lake

Reviewed on: 2005-03-29

Recent Reviews By This Author

Okkervil River - Black Sheep Boy
Various Artists - Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus
Crooked Fingers - Dignity and Shame
The Stands - All Years Leaving
Relient K - Mmhmm


Comments
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Posted 04/02/2005 - 07:45:47 PM by dawson865:
 Ok.... ok....ok. Where do I start with your "review"? Well probably with the fact that I am not too familiar with your stylus magazine, I am not sure if you are attempting actual journalism, or if you are simply venting your thoughts un-cohesively. You have so many facts wrong, please bear with me as I correct your review. Firstly Regina’s music is not at all about "killing herself and people dying and all this sad stuff" Soviet Kitsch may be pensive and even a little dark at times, however Regina has many songs that are of brighter times. Just one of note is "Folding Chair" - a happy upbeat celebration of summer. As to your point of not caring about her piano skills - that is your problem not hers. It takes a hell of a lot of skill to sing, play piano with her left hand and beat a chair with her right! Obviously you are not a piano player and as such have never attempted such a difficult skill. As to here style, she has professed that she "has no style" She wants to be diverse, fusing punk with classical with rock with pop. The trick is to pull it off - and Regina does this superbly. Regina also sings a Capella. And sounds amazing - she has a beautiful voice and is not afraid to use it with confidence. Poor Little Rich Boy is actually not a crock. First of all I believe that Regina is actually sympathising with him, rather than ”like trying to put him down.” Regina’s persona – the rich boy is lamenting the situation with his mother and girlfriend, he is wishing for more…for a simple life full of simple pleasures. As for your comment about Regina being “snooty” – you simply heard incorrect. She was not rich as a child. She lived in the Soviet Union, where she was fortunate enough to receive classical piano lessons. This is not an uncommon thing – many people who are far from rich are able to receive piano lessons. When her family subsequently moved to the US (due to the religious persecution in the Soviet Union) they had to sell their piano, arriving with virtually nothing. But I think that you hit the nail on the hear when you state that your “not even sure what she's talking about.” As for your mention of Chemo Limbo, I assume that you enjoy the song? It is externally difficult to tell from your paragraph, your writing style is neither casual nor professional. It lies somewhere in between, and confuses your opinion greatly. Also your comments on the "song about sailors" which incidentally is called Sailor Song (too much to read the actual song names while listen to them? I mean this is only a review...). Sailor Song is about the morality of sailors who travel and are presented with many sexual opportunities. Finally with regards to the album title. She herself is “Soviet Kitsch” You are correct again with what you heard – it is a reference to the fact that the soviet union was so isolated, that modern style was late in arriving. People in the Soviet Union were always behind the times – unfashionably late. There is a lot of Soviet here – her musical influences can be heard to be Slavic – and you may not care where she was born (the Soviet Union), but you clearly care where she grew up – the Bronx – not Brooklyn. Regina’s music is skilful, playful and heartfelt. She may not be to everyone’s taste – but that’s ok. If you don’t “get it” then refrain from talking with authority on it. A little research on the internet would have provided you with more than enough background information. Check out her whole album for free at www.reginaspektor.com
 
Posted 04/03/2005 - 01:44:51 PM by joordan:
 hokay, well I am going to go out on a limb and say the review is ironic here dawson865 since a cursory glance at his other reviews show a pretty sustained and sincere reviewing of the albums. and while i am not a huge fan of the "concept" review, you do a nice job of "correcting" the deliberate missteps, I mean she may be from da Bronx not brooklyn but if you think this album is not going to be received as not emenating from the hipster 718 (even if the connections to the ____ folk revival associated with the aforementioned borough are tenuous), then wake up and smell the discourse. I would prefer to have a straight review, but you wonder with cover art (I know don't judge but don't ignore) whether you are not begging for a bit of ironic engagement. I don't like either of your takes on kitsch or why it would be funny given the title since much of the Soviet cultural production was seen as counter to the kitsch (German for shit) coming from the various dream/commodity machines of the West. so to my ears, I think the album is OK, nothing revelatory or that huge a departure form Tilly and the Wall or several other anti-folkies. her voice is nice and her loud/soft play is nice sometimes but I am nto sure why we should raise this above the level of kitsch or a B- for that matter.
 
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