By August Brown, Los Angeles Times (TNS)
The Russian punk performance group Pussy Riot has a new video, and true to form, it’s politically volatile but visually and musically compelling as well.
The duo of Nadya Tolokonnikova and Masha Alyokhina recorded their first English-language single, titled “I Can’t Breathe.” Though they formed the band to protest the repressive policies of Russian President Vladimir Putin, this time they’re taking on issues of American justice.
The song’s title and lyrics overtly evoke the protests around the death of Eric Garner, and the subsequent lack of indictment of the officers whose restraints led to his death. They recorded the track in New York in the days following the grand jury’s decision not to indict the officers.
The song pulls in a host of punk heroes and experimental musicians — Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Nick Zinner, Richard Hell, Andrew Wyatt of Miike Snow, and the singers from the Russian groups Jack Wood and Scofferlane. Unlike their blasts of atonal noise and iconoclastic screaming, this time the group performs over a gloomy electronic arrangement.
It’s certainly the most high-fidelity recording they’ve made yet, and might signal greater ambitions for themselves as a political band and not just as activists who use music.
But the video is even more arresting. In it, the duo (wearing Russian police uniforms) are laid in a grave and buried alive. The stark color contrasts of the dirt and religious imagery of the crossed wooden tools is powerful, especially in the song’s closing seconds when the track is overwhelmed with white noise.
The duo spent two years in Russian prison for their “punk prayer” performance, and their criticisms come from a place of shared empathy for Garner. Hopefully it’s not the last time they bring friends from around the music world to challenge American society as well as Russia’s.
© 2015 Los Angeles Times Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC
Image: via PussyRiotVideo YouTube channel