Picks and Pans Review: Radio Silence

updated 08/07/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/07/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Boris Grebenshikov

It used to be so simple. A new regional musical style would explode on the scene, something easy to grasp like Bay Area psychedelia, North Dakota No Wave or Phoenix punk. But now the whole world's rocking. In the last few years, the Heavy Metal Curtain has parted and the flood of Soviet rock is starting to hit these shores.

Grebenshikov, who leads a Leningrad band, Aquarium, is the first big Soviet star to arrive. Singing mostly in English on his first Western release, he won't make anyone forget the Beatles. His composing style mixes soft-focus folk a la Steve Forbert and '70s British rock in the mode of Peter Gabriel-era Genesis. It's top-heavy, without the strong bass and percussive pull of contemporary music here.

That makes songs like "Real Slow Today" and "That Voice Again" both anachronistic and exotic. Boris seems most in his element on moody ballads like "Winter." The rockers are lethargic, as if he's sailing a boat with the anchor dragging.

Grebenshikov's lyrics are murkily poetic, as in "The Time": "And I watch you dance with someone/ Someone not even there/ And you're simple as in 'sacrilege'/ And you're pure as in 'prayer.' " Grebenshikov found a compatible musical interpreter in producer Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics. As a musician, Stewart can also be a wonderful explicator, peeling back a song like "The Postcard" with his searing guitar solo to expose its wildly beating heart. Radio Silence should fall easily, if not trippingly, on American ears. So welcome, comrade. Any more like you at home? (Columbia)

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