Straight Outta Brno
Budoár Staré Dámy is a quintet based in Brno, one of the cities in the Czech Republic that isn’t Prague. (There are a lot of them.) The group was formed in 1999, when they were all in their teens, and its name means “The Old Lady’s Boudoir”. That indisputably kicks ass.
Budoár Staré Dámy are fronted by singer/songwriter Marta Fúú Svobodová, who also plays guitar and mandolin and does the enigmatic cut-paper illustrations in the CD booklet. I don’t speak Czech, so I don’t know if she is a great lyricist or not, but the words sound really cool and interesting when she sings and shouts and declaims them in one of her voices. (She has several.) Plus, her middle name is Fúú. So, y’know, role model / crush right there.
Inspired by Nirvana and Hole, their music is muscly indie-rock, with a violin high up in the mix and lots of stoppy-starty parts and stabby parts and dramatic passages that sound like lots of ‘70s/‘80s bands that didn’t suck: Talking Heads, X, Blondie, R.E.M. They don’t sound at all like the Pixies, but Marta’s voice often intertwines and plays off violinist Eva Svobodová‘s voice like the Deal sisters’ voices did in the Breeders. They also do one song that sounds like country-reggae except that on the chorus it gets suddenly Slavic, like everyone is all drunk at Oktoberfest (“Oná Osudná”) So there are your signifiers if you need them.
Budoár Staré Dámy intentionally makes their songs hard to categorize by turning each one into a labyrinth; things never end up where you think they’re going to go. “Uneste Si M?” starts out as a march, relaxes into a slow groove, and then bounces back up again with searing guitars and double-time drums from t?pán Svoboda (Marta’s brother, natch). They pull out some surf-band stuff on “Boí”, and then it’s gone but your head is still swimming. The minimalist funk of “Noc Co Noc” is Talking Heads-ish but keeps exploding into Skye Sweetman-style girl-punk. I love it, and I don’t see how any other reaction could happen.
It can be nerve-racking, reviewing CDs from foreign countries when you don’t live there or know much of the context. I have had angry people writing me about “Oh, you don’t know what you are talking about, you idiot American,” and they’ve been right. So I guess I’ll just say that this sounds more sparkly and weird at the same time than other Czech rock/jazz/pop/etc. that I’ve heard.
Brno must be the jam. Maybe I’ll move.
// Notes from the Road
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