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The Raskolnikovs

Bea Turner



The Raskolnikovs’ self titled debut opens with the most impressive imitation of Nick Cave. Exchange The Bad Seed’s organs for accordion, and what you have in the opener ‘Don’t Go Down’ is perfect Murder Ballads era Cave, from the hammered, stripped back percussion to the gothic orchestrations and Brett Moodie’s eerily identical baritone howlings. Thankfully the album moves from copycat territory to homage. “Blood and Coal” trades in a more Eastern European folk tradition, with comparisons to Gogol Bordello not far off the mark, albeit in a fashion more melodramatic than punk. There’s plenty of Tom Waits’ macabre lyrical content, though this album, with its eighteenth century folk-horror and ballad references, finds its inspiration in the literary gothic genre and the folk-tale more than any musical starting point. In “Red Rocks Stranger” they have achieved a disturbing and utterly brilliant conflation of their own version of a gothic tale of love and murder with eighteenth century mythology and contemporary Wellington architecture backed by creeping minor guitar chords and sinister choirs. It goes without saying that to pull off a successful Bad Seeds cut and paste, which this album sometimes descends into, calls for more than four chords and synth fuzz overlay. The musicianship is the star of this short album, full of a haunting otherworldlyness that belies their origins. They’re all Wellington residents, yet manage to pull off with almost complete believability the vocal huskiness and the storytelling bent of world weary last-century sailors, backed by utter confidence and belief in their past era songs which draw on a history they cannot have experienced. Themes will always remain the same, of course, but to pull off with the conviction of Baby Gramps, if not quite the authority, the kind of lyric, emotional and musical tradition they are mining takes no small amount of skill and a huge amount of belief. Flawed, sure, but simply for travelling in a different direction to the rest of New Zealand’s musical community, and for a lyrical richness and black humour that is sadly missed in the deconstructed build ‘em up and break ‘em down post punk that dominates at the moment, I hope the Raskolnikovs stay round.