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Hova Lett...

Hova Lett...
NAGY FERO ES A BIKINI EGYUTTES

(originally written 1989)

Nagy Ferenc was the pioneer of Hungary's punk movement. Back in the 70's, his renegade outfit BEATRICE attracted throngs of alienated youths, whose allegiance to the band culminated in something more like a movement than mere rabid fandom. In the oppressive cultural climate of Communist Hungary, Nagy's posturing quickly took on (intended) political significance, and BEATRICE ultimately collapsed under both its own weight, and governmental pressure. In the early eighties, Nagy re-emerged with an outfit called BIKINI. With the official stranglehold on artistic expression loosening, in 1983 NAGY FERO AND THE BIKINI BAND were able to release their debut album, Hova Lett... ("What Happened To..."). 

Even the most weathered and cynical fans of underground punk and hardcore would be struck anew by Hova Lett...'s unrelenting violence and anger. But Nagy takes punk's conceptual trademarks several steps further than they had ever been taken before, displaying an inclination for meticulous production and musicianship never encountered previously on a punk record. Along with the machine gun double guitar attack, the rhythm section burns its way through hyper-ska, metalized Slavic folk motifs (one song is even sung in Russian), and free psycho-jazz, among other forms. The speed, violence, and purity of primitivism of this aural assault is in jarring juxtaposition to the sophistication of Nagy's compositional and production skills.

The album opens with the sound of crashing waves, giving way to playful and lyrical acoustic guitars, accompanied by contrapuntal cello and violin. As the strings, guitars, and sinister metaphorical irony of the "Hungarian ocean" subside, all hell breaks loose. "Maradj Mar!!" ("Come Off it!!") explodes in a fury of cascading guitars and double-time electronic bass pulses, culminating in Nagy's giant on-mic orgasm. "Ady egy cigit!" he cries ("Gimme a cigarette!"). 

Throughout, Nagy employs ingenious studio and musical innovations. In "Program" he intermittently speeds up and slows down the master, warping and distorting the Jamaican-cum-Ukrainian track as if his thumb were pressing against the turntable. The pentatonic "Otyi Totyi Ping Pong", a rice-picking chant cruelly parodying Mao's China, twice suddenly abandons its rigid military beat for a free speed-jazz workout. Side One closes with the utterly insane "Ki Csinal Szodat?" ("Who's Gonna Make Some Soda?"), which shifts from straight 4/4 punk to double time, culminating in the screech of harmonizing violins speeding up and down the scale. As the electric assault re-enters, the sound suddenly stops dead. The needle has hit the inner groove, and the track is over. Or is it? Turn the record over, and lo and behold, there's "Ki Csinal Szodat, Pt. II," which continues right where Pt. I left off, tempo doubled again. 

Nagy constantly employs biting metaphor and double entendre in his verbal attack on the establishment, perhaps most chillingly realized in "Children's Tale." Here, he cops a melody from the theme of a children's TV show, and proceeds to relate a superficially banal tale of a little birdie complaining of hunger. "I thought we agreed you wouldn't complain like that!" says the fox. "Oh, okay," says the birdie, and the disco-punk carries the track, and the album, to a crashing close. 

Nagy Fero and Bikini made one more album together before parting company. XX. Szazadi Hirado ("XXth Century News") is an only slightly less brilliant effort, which makes more overt reference to non-punk genres: blues, polka, liturgical classical, and pop, among others. Bikini on their own have proven to be a bland pop-rock hit machine, churning out album after album of samey-sounding money makers that are an insult to their obvious talents. Nagy Fero, meanwhile, gained exposure on Hungarian radio, hosting his own typically irreverent call-in show called "Garazs" ("Garage"). He also won establishment accolades for his (re-) interpretation of "Hamlet" on the Hungarian stage. Nagy also proved himself to be a true conceptual artistic rebel in the Jello Biafra tradition, running for President of the Republic of Hungary. A reconstituted Beatrice has released some records as well. 

But on Hova Lett... Nagy Ferenc made his mark as a true rock and roll visionary, creating an album that stands as both an artistic and political triumph of the highest order.

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