Moimir Papalescu & The Nihilists + Sunshine

Concert Review: Live at Klub 007 Strahov, September 10th, 2004

Musically, Moimir Papalescu & The Nihilists and Sunshine have little in common beyond line-ups that mix conventional instruments with electronics.

What the two bands do share, though, apart from being friends, is the ambition to break beyond the limitations of the Czech music scene.

Both sing in English, and also have slick websites largely in English, but they also pay closer attention to musical trends beyond Czech borders than many of their peers.

Sunshine, in particular, could well be on the brink of some kind of breakthrough.

The band, originally from Tábor, have a sound that's far more fashionable now than it was when they first formed in the mid-90s, and they could easily be shoehorned into the current punk-funk trend led by The Rapture.

Live, the collision of spiky guitar lines and pulsing beats and basslines sounds like a more anthemic version of The Cure.

Craggy thirtysomething frontman Kay is another asset, working 007's low ceilings like a South Bohemian Iggy Pop.

Unfortunately, while Sunshine have the right sound and the right look, they don't quite have the songs and this reviewer, for one, found his attention turning to the 007 bar midway through the set. (The relentless melodrama of Kay's Czenglish neo-Goth lyrics doesn't help much.)

There's enough here, though, to make you think that Sunshine's forthcoming new album and upcoming European tour, supporting The Faint, could easily lead to something more.

Next up, my first chance to see Moimir Papalescu & The Nihilists, seemingly the Czech Republic's only electroclash act.

To use a horrible cliché, if The Nihilists didn't exist someone would've had to invent them - Prague finally has the fun, cool, credible, alternative party band it badly needed, and people are beginning to take notice.

The chemistry between the three main players is critical here.

Pretty frontwoman Jira "La Petite Sonja" Kröhn adds glamour and attitude to the equation, theatrically removing and replacing her visor sunglasses between songs as the band shifts from punky rockers like Perfect Boy to torch-song material like Everybody Calls Me An Angel.

For around half the songs in the set, La Petite Sonja steps aside, allowing guitarist Jindra "Hank Jesus Manchini" Hoch to prove himself a wonderfully kitsch and equally charismatic stage presence.

Shaven-headed Matěj "Moimir Papalescu" Papež completes the triangle, playing his deliberately cultivated mad Romanian boffin role to the hilt.

While much electroclash ends up on the chilly side of cool, The Nihilists bring a sense of warmth and fun to the genre, vaguely reminiscent of campy 80s rockers The B52s.

What's most surprising, though, especially for a group yet to release its debut album, is the breadth of material, which ranges from Suicide-style industrial throb through to a sweet electro-pop version of the Lee Hazlewood/Nancy Sinatra song Summer Wine.

Another cover, a crowd-pleasing electroclash version of Kraftwerk's The Model, is a little too obvious, but it's hard to argue with the overall effect.

Go see them. You'll like them.

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