Jesse Jones: Budapessimism

(10th July, 1982)

 

ETA - named for the Basque terrorists, terrorism not being a popular cause in complacent, comfortable, communist Hungary - snarl around the stage, wearing black on white, rockabilly-tinged punk. Sex Pistols throwback, but with a certain style, if not the most original of sounds. The singer rages, fails, leaps, spits and shouts - usually about anarchy, stuff America, stuff Russia and stuff everybody. But tonight they stick to "Jó, Jó, Jó" over and again - "Good good good, OK, OK, OK". Beacause the police are out in force to listen is, and careless talk costs lives - or at least, places to play.

This concert took place thanks to Control Group [Kontroll Csoport - Sz.T.], reincarnation of URH, once given gold star rating in this very paper. Control - more explanatory New Wave than ETA - took to convulsive reincarnation to wangle places to play.

But luck struck: they have since been adopted as "amateur rock orchestra" by the Ikarus Bus Factory of suburban Budapest! This gives them no money, but rehearsal space five days a week and the opportunity to organise concerts like this. How did they swing it? "We were looking for a second saxophonist and the guy we found was in a theatre group that used to practise here," says singer and songwrite Péter Müller. How do they get away with it? "This place is far away - no one knows about it but the guys who follow the music." And about 50 policemen...

They're treated to Agressor - shorts spitting spasms of angry punk, indeed it's Oi! - Mohicans, leather, green hair, and an Oi Oi Oi chant from centre front. Even badges boasting Oi! Sex Pistols! Dead Kennedys! Exploited! The sudden flourishing of very spikey punks is a new addition to a scenethat's tended tobe older, more art-school intellectual.

(...)

Then there's Lemon [Citrom - Sz.T.] - flared jeans, synthesiser, pretentious text and toy gun - who get boed off once they start insulting the punks: "We're normal, you're abnormal." Now that is offensive to a crowd that, if not all Mohican, all identify as New Wave.

Balaton follow, with edgy love songs, irony and existencial angst, restless rhythms, playing over past and present, the meaning of memory, paranoia. "Who's that hiding under the big Persian carpet? We don't know, we don't know, it's censorship." Slides show Paris, cameras, trees, tape recorders, Budapest lit to look like New York - how to see the world when you're not allowed a passport. "Hungarian summer, Russian winter, Prague spring, No one remembers." A grey slab of flats is shot into the sun so a neon star bursts from an upper window; the little blonde singer leaps for joy across the screen. Balaton are the most arty and subtle of the bands of show. The Oi! fans listen with respect, if not enthusiasm.

(...)

After ETA, all the young punks troop off to take buses back to town, missing out on Neurotic, clowning and drooling, the 19-year-old singer, in green harem trousers, gold cummerbund, cream shirt and a fur stole of which he slinkily strips. Night club melodies mingle with rock.

Neurotic, Balaton and Control are mentioned approvingly in an officially published ROck Book of the Year, out this month. They're surprised, but their heads aren't turned. If it were a state recording contract they might be impressed. Though then they'd have to decide whether to come on in under the state's umbrella. For the moment they stay out in the rain, and the sun.

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