pussy-riot-pong-nightmares

Pussy Riot: “Pong” / “Nightmares” (track review)

Just as tyrant and resistance – Putin and Pussy Riot – are locked in a seemingly endless game of Pong against each other, with acts of courageous defiance deflected by acts of brute tyranny.

Pussy Riot’s “Pong” takes us through a montage of vintage-style computer games; a spasmodically flashing spectacle delivered in bright and apopleptic visual horror. From the original Pong through The Sims, the minute and a half long video resembles a nostalgic journey through the evolution of gaming.

But it’s a journey, too, from the beginning of Pussy Riot’s notoriety and repression – that ‘punk prayer’ they performed at Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in 2012 and which led to jail sentences for its performers in Russian president Putin’s totalitarian Russian dictatorship. The confrontation is depicted in gaming form: a small feminine boxer defeating the monstrous Putin (later in the video, Putin erupts again from the bushes, riding a bear).

The primitive gaming context is a reminder, though, of the primitive nostalgia de la boue which drives the Russian oligarchy today. Just as tyrant and resistance – Putin and Pussy Riot – are locked in a seemingly endless game of Pong against each other, with acts of courageous defiance deflected by acts of brute tyranny, so the broader country seems to have come full circle, its yearning for the glory days of old resulting in the equally repressive bonds of Putin’s modern iteration of the totalitarian Soviet state.

By the end of the video, the flashing lights and pounding beats are almost unbearable, and the listener, while impressed, is left with an aching head and a lingering question: what just happened? A metaphorical effect comparable, no doubt, to the question many Russians ask themselves daily.

Like its sister track “Nightmares”, it was released as a statement against the ongoing imprisonment of Oleg Sentsov, a Ukrainian filmmaker and political prisoner in Russia who is currently on a hunger strike. “Nightmares” itself, a partial cover of a track by Dina Vierny, is an aural and visual journey through the horrors of the totalitarian Russian penal system. It opens with a driving drum ‘n’ bass rhythm, overwhelming in its aural assault. But this gradually melts into a strange medley, partly reminiscent of folk, partly derived from the bland mould of the soulless modern club hit.

Pussy Riot themselves are back in prison as well. Four members of the collective charged the field during the World Cup final on July 17, in protest against worsening political and social repression in the host country.

RATING 8 / 10
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