24. 9. 2004
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Britské listy

ISSN 1213-1792


Jan Čulík


Karel Dolejší


Michal Panoch, Jan Panoch

Grafický návrh:

Štěpán Kotrba

ISSN 1213-1792
deník o všem, o čem se v České republice příliš nemluví
24. 9. 2004

Jednou měř, 2x neřež

Summer has come to and end and with it the holidays. This is, however, no reason to be depressed but something to be happy about. At least, if you are a fan of concerts in small clubs and cafés, and if you are waiting for your favourite band's new album. Autumn has come to be seen as the commercially most favourable time for releasing a new album. Therefore most artists wait for the end of the summer holidays to release their new creations. The weather is such that one prefers spending time indoors, often at cultural events such as the theatre, opera or at concerts. Moreover, Christmas is approaching and what better present is there than a good CD?

On 21st September, Prague folk band Neřež celebrated the recent release of their fourth album, Jednou měř, 2x neřež, with a launch party at the traditional folk and rock venue Malostranská beseda in Prague. Malostranská Beseda is very cosy and pleasantly old-fashioned exuding history from its photograph-hung walls. Neřež`s latest offering is also its first on Czech label Indies Records, whose owner fittingly helped "baptise" the record. Neřež prepared an entertaining evening for their families, fans and the present journalists. For one thing, there were plastic tags reading neruš, poslouchám neřež with a picture of the band and contact details as well as the Indies Records logo on each table. These tags, as explained by group leader Zdeněk Vřešťál, are for use when in a certain place: either hanging outside or inside -- in case one wanted to look at the band while performing necessary bodily functions. This humorous explanation set the tone for the rest of the evening: the atmosphere was very relaxed and informal.

The club was by no means crowded but those present managed to create a great atmosphere for the musicians to play in. The concert started around 8:30 p.m. with an opening talk by Vřešťál about the album and the planned live transmission. Then the band played a few songs to warm up before the later, "real" concert. Vřešťál -- surprisingly because of his vast experience -- looked quite nervous, which, however, only lasted for a few short moments. The first hosts were introduced: they turned out to be acoustic guitar duo Kohout and Linhart, friends of the band who played a few of their own compositions and two Simon and Garfunkel songs.

A break of about 30 minutes followed before live transmission on Český rozhlas 1 - Radiožurnál started at 10 p.m. Just before that Vřešťál performed a few old songs with his long-time partner Sázavský, undoubtedly one of the highlights of the evening. During the humorous "Do you speak English?" Vřešťál nearly completely lost his composure, laughing instead of singing his part. The radio programme was made audible in the club and, to the general amusement, informed about the state of the world and next day's weather. Neřež then performed a mix of old and a few new songs. Before "Amarcord" Vřešťál inquired who had seen the film and when only about 5 people raised their hands he declared the whole audience for very educated -- allegedly usually even less people had seen Fellini's masterpiece. Another new song performed was the single "Nad tebe není", according to Vřešťál "you" meaning each member of the audience, followed by "Dnes anebo nikdy" and "Admirál Babočka", another love song performed by Sázavský with the help of the hosting Raven on piano. Raven, an excellent pianist and songwriter, had helped with the recording of the album.

It was again Vřešťál who introduced the "baptism" ceremony. He spoke about Indies Records as the sole Czech record company while gently poking fun at the major labels by creating absurd names. He also thanked everybody who had worked on the creation of the album. The album was baptised with sparkling wine, which Vřešťál attempted to lick off the CD. The concert continued until after 11 o' clock including more humorous songs such as the one sung by a Christmas present from Granny, older songs like the Beatlesque "Ne!", the hit "Já s tebou žít nebudu" and "Honza", parodying a famous Czech folk singer.

Jednou měř, 2x neřež (there is also space for a second CD only available at concerts and in exchange for the tag enclosed in the original album -- an intelligent move against notorious CD burners) clearly documents the development of Neřež from its beginnings in 1997 to the present. What is noticeable is that the songs become ever more fragile, quiet and intimate as time passes. Vřešťál as nearly the exclusive author of the songs (Sázavský and bass guitarist Benešovský take care of the arrangements) has moved away from the simpler structures that were once a trademark of predecessor Nerez. The more complicated structure makes the songs less "singable" at home but they compensate with a variety of interesting musical ideas.

Jednou měř, 2x neřež is above all a very personal album, revealing the emotional turmoil Vřešťál went through while writing the songs. Creating very personal songs, however, is typical for Vřešťál who is not afraid of sharing his emotions and problems with a larger audience. Owing to their intimate yet complicated nature the songs are not suitable for a mass audience nor the radio. Nevertheless, Vřešťál insists that radio rotation was not his goal at all. Those able to appreciate quiet music in a loud time will find excellent lyrics and intriguing melodies on this album, recorded with obvious joy by capable musicians.

Vřešťál also very acutely perceives the time we live in: he devoted an older song, "Ohníčky", to notorious CD burners (confessing to being one himself), then there was the above mentioned "Do you speak English?" about the current craze of the Czech population to learn English, an earlier sound recording called "Velký nákup", released long before Český sen, the problem of the Roma in Czech society and a large number of timeless love songs as well as humorous ones such as "Faux Pas" from the new album. The album will most likely not sell very many copies. Nonetheless, in this day and age an album serves as a mere "visiting card" to attract people to concerts.

Which leads us to a contemplation of the concert itself. In my opinion Neřež are undoubtedly a much better experience live than on CD. One of the reasons may be that, while music is logically an aural experience, its atmosphere is hard to convey without visual support, i.e. without seeing the musicians perform the songs in an appropriate environment. Additionally, Vřešťál is a natural entertainer and storyteller who regales his audience with little jokes and insider stories while the versatile Sázavský excels at pulling faces. The whole band, completed by Benešovský on bass guitar and Uher on drums, clearly relished the opportunity to perform in front of an appreciative audience.

My only point of contention is that, although advertising the concert as a launch party, the band performed only 5 of the 16 new songs, relying on its older and more "mass friendly" material. Also, while the two leaders' charisma and chemistry are beyond doubt, the question remains whether other musicians, as good as they might be, function as mere extras that add to the overall sound. The reader who has seen Vřešťál and Sázavský perform as a duo will certainly understand my argumentation. I would like to conclude by recommending to purchase this album but also to make sure of seeing Neřež live in concert: the album, while very good, falls slightly short of adequately conveying all of Vřešťál and Sázavský`s magic.

Obsah vydání       24. 9. 2004
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