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.
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.