Art Rock are a Polish band with a strange kind of history. They were locally famous for their performances during the early eighties, although they never recorded an album. The band disbanded, but many years later the debut album called The House Of Tango (2008) saw the light of day. It was a collection of archived recordings from the years 1980-1983. Later on, this music was performed live on stage by the original band members: vocalist Miroslaw Dublany, guitarist Krzysztof Zawistowski, bass player Andrzej Dondalski and on drums newcomer Adam Grzelak. This line-up recorded the new album 81, which contains updated old compositions and partly written old songs that were finally developed to real songs.
The album's title refers to the band's most successful period, being 1981, so a warning is in place here. Art Rock plays a mixture of straightforward rock and hard rock, which was a popular genre in the early eighties. This means that the band's name has nothing to do with the musical style to which it could possibly refer. The lyrics are all sung in Polish, which was of course common at the time of their glory days. It's now regarded to be rather unusual, although it also has a kind of charming exotic aspect. The compositions are solid and still acceptable, especially when you're familiar with the band or when you were a fan of Art Rock during that period.
However, for most listeners outside Poland the band's music will sound rather outdated. This record contains many guitar solos that cannot compare with the modern standard of guitar playing. Bez Miłości, for instance, is a blues song and with the exception of the lyrics this song reminds me a bit of Robin Trower's music: slow and intense. The majority of the songs contains uncompromised hard rock with raw vocals.
81 is an unusual compilation of songs. I think it helps to like this record if you understand the Polish lyrics and the way they are sung. Personally I liked the bluesy pieces rather than the hard-edged rock songs. In my opinion Miroslaw Dublany's voice sounds better during the more emotional blues songs. But then again this album could also bring back memories of the time when you were young in the early eighties, although I think that this only applies to Polish readers...
*** Pedro Bekkers (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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