A.M.180 Collective take us Czech in the 90s

Post Author: Štěpán Bolf
Štěpán Bolf

The Czech indie/shoegaze scene was pretty huge at the beginning of the 90s (Ecstasy of St.Theresa, Sebastians and others) and some bands made it to John Peel´s sessions and to MTV. At the time, they were compared a lot to UK bands and criticized for not being very original, but after some years, it looks like the strength of Prague´s THE NAKED SOULS tunes have survived. They split after releasing a couple of records between 1989-1996, but current shoegaze/noise/indie acts still remember and proudly reference them. This song is simple, as is the video, and the result catches the beauty of youth.

PSÍ VOJÁCI are something like fathers of the Czech underground scene, together with Plastic People of the Universe and a couple of other acts. Formed in 1979, you can catch the atmosphere of Communist era Prague in their music. If you were a romantic and depressive soul then, you had to stay underground with your feelings. This song is their anthem, even now. (They are still an active band, but their frontman Filip Topol, who is a very very good poet, no longer beats the piano with his fists until blood runs from it, as he did some years ago. He is more relaxed now…) This video catches the core of the tune – the pain of being pure at heart.

If you ask me about REAL Czech made gothic music, I will recommend you the debut full-length by the band called PROUZA. They came from a small town in industrial Moravia called Frýdek-Místek, and I remember being totally hypnotized by presence of their frontman Tomáš Hampel, a stone-faced dude with a far-away stare, who was backed onstage by walls of guitars and a massive rhythm section. They split up many years ago, after releasing two albums, and doing a reunion four years back with another frontman – the magic was lost. Rumor has it that the former singer spends his days in mental hospital now…. I´m not really into the naive decadent esthetics of this video, but I really fucking like the ruined location, which perfectly fit the message of lyrics– You are trying to welcome happiness and beauty to your life, but other people can destroy it pretty easily and quickly …

Prague´s new wave band was called PRAŽSKÝ VÝBĚR (translates to “Prague´s Selection“) which consisted of former jazz musicians and members of local punk bands. The only way to get Western music during the Cold War era in Czechoslovakia was to look for records at black markets, which were often interrupted by police attacks. I think these guys listened a lot to Talking Heads. [editor’s note: maybe more like DEVO] After all these years, their music still catches the playfulness and joy of music – some of their songs are sung in a made up language… When they released their debut record, they were not allowed to perform because of the Communists. Later, the atmosphere was more open during the Perestroika times at the end of 80s, so they made some more records and became an elite crew of musicians (Their singer was the Czech minister of human rights for some time as Capitalism arrived to Czech) but this tune is one of their first singles, and one of their best. It´s about crazy friends, collecting useless things – and money too. Nonsense lyrics make different sense in a different time.

Coming from Brno, the “capital“ of Moravia, DUNAJ was the main band of the so-called Brno scene at the end of 80s and beginnig of 90s. Their noisy avant-garde Beefheart-ish sound was influenced also by other sources, including traditonal folk music. The band consisted of four strong art people, with the singer Jiří Kolšovský giving the impression of a homeless weirdo and wise man at the same time. This song is their catchiest, and the video was made at the Roxy club in Prague, which had a labyrinth sculpted into the floor by my own brother Josef! Not surprisingly, this song is about death. The massive bass guitar break close to the end of the song drives me crazy every time I hear it.