It came in as quite a shock, when I saw a Russian band playing on Letterman.
Their name is Mumiy Troll and most people agree that this band is one of Russia’s biggest and most influential rock bands. Others, like it usually happens, think their last 11 albums were crap and only the first 4 were of some value. And, of course, there are those who couldn’t care less—like me, and so I’ll stick to the facts.
Mumiy Troll started in 1983, but released their first studio album only in 1997. That album, “Morskaya” by name, was an instant success and received support from both critics and the audience.
Mumiy Troll of that time were all about brit pop, unisex and rockapop (term introduced by band’s founder Ilya Lagutenko)—and were tremendously successful with everything they did on the album. At that time they were supported by Russia’s two probably most influential pop music publicity & production specialists: Alexander Kushnir & Alexander Shulgin. Mumiy Troll were in good hands. Here is one of the songs that put them in the spotlight some 13 years ago:
Mumiy Troll’s next album only took about 7 months to complete. Titled “Ikra” (or “Caviar”), it landed in November 1997, and was even more successful than the previous one. And here is an award-winning music video for one of the album’s songs.
In 2001, after releasing their fourth LP, Mumiy Troll went to represent Russia at Eurovision. Although they epicly failed to both rock it and score, everyone seemed to be having a good time:
And even though they didn’t collect as many points as we had all expected, the band went on and released yet another album. It came out in 2002 and got a title “Meamury” or, if it had been released in Florida, “Meamours”. It came out on September 1 and made a lot of noise, from both—those who thought it rocked and those who expected more. At any rate, Mumiy Troll were always in the spotlight, regardless of what they were making.
At the same time, Russia was witnessing a massive media campaign against AIDS and unprotected sex. The campaign symbol “Take it wherever you go” appeared on every surface that could carry graphics. Ilya Lagutenko was one of the stars to endorse the symbol.
To make sure everyone got the message, endorsement strategy was put into small and really straightforward clips, that need no translation:
Yes, it is simple. But hey, that’s an Anti-AIDS campaign. You don’t need a Leo Tolstoy for that.
What you would have needed Leo Tolstoy for back in those days was the film released in 2003 with MT’s magnificend soundtrack on board. Written and directed by Leonid Rybakov, the film “Pohititeli Knig” (The Book Thieves) went straight into the arthouse section of the movie theatres and soon, thanks to MT’s soundtrack, found its viewers on DVDs and local networks. Here is a trailer:
The fact that a decent-quality trailer could only be found through a very cool Polish television channel suggests that the film was never too acclaimed in Russia. But the soundtrack definitely was. Look at this next video and feel the love.
Pohititeli knig OST (2004)
Not surprisingly, many fans turned away from Mumiy Troll after a whole big LP of the lovable downtempo rock tunes went on sale under the band’s name. The fans wanted Ilya and his band to rock, and rock hard, so in 2005 MT releases “Sliyanie i Pogloschenie” (Merging and Acquisition), from which I’d love to share this next piece called “Privatizatsiya”.
Sliyanie i Pogloschenie (2005)
This word refers to the name of a period in Russia’s life when the Soviet Union had just collapsed and new Russian entrepreneurs started to buy out property, factories and strategic enterprises. These entrepreneurs will later become the almighty oligarchs, and the time will be remembered as Russia’s probably craziest time. At any rate, here is the song, and the video, and the lyrics.
Then there was “Amba”, MT’s studio-recorded LP released in 2007. A year later, on August 8, 2008 (08/08/08) MT released their, as they put it, most epic and massive album to-date. It landed on the shelves in 21 tracks, 2 CDs and a fantastic cover:
Not to mention that it really was epic:
In 2005, Radiohead launched the new album “In Rainbows” via their website, available for a digital download without any set price. That was truly a turning point in the history of album releasing. The era of CD and vinyls was almost over. The echo of this notion reached Russia around 2008 and, shortly, upon launching their album, MT stated that this was their last album to be launched on CD. Not yet it wasn’t.
“Redkie Zemli” (Rare Earths) was released in 2010 and it aggregated all the previously unpublished tracks. Some of which are rarely good. This next video is a proof.
Redkie Zemli (2010)
Around that time, MT started exploring Western music markets and shortly after came up with an all-English album called “Vladivostok”. Well, “came up” is a bit of an overstatement: the album mostly consists of rehashed versions of MT’s hits of the past with English lyrics. You can even order it on Amazon.
From the most recent news: in August 2013, MT launched their latest album, SOS Matrosu and announced their farewell tours. Le Roi est mort. Vive le Roi?
Mumiy Troll is not just a band. It is to the modern Russian music as Beatles were to rock’n’roll. That is why Russians still sing along to most of MT’s songs.