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The Russian Red Hot Chili Peppers? This Band Only Writes Songs About Life In Southern Nizhny Novgorod Oblast

You’ve heard the songs, you’ve seen the videos, you’ve probably even heard the interviews. Anyone who hasn’t lived under a rock for the past 30 years knows The Red Hot Chili Peppers are from California. But let’s face it. Southern California is bullshit. Songs about celebrities? Plastic surgery? Softcore porn? Using heroin under a bridge? All bullshit. But thankfully for us, there’s an alternative to this sugar-coated, sun soaked hippy cry fest.

BTR may not have the same name recognition, but this tight unit of musicians from Arzamas, Russia has written 82 songs, five whole albums, about their beloved home, Southern Nizhny Novgorod Oblast. The home of the BTR-80 amphibious armored assault vehicle the band takes its name from, Arzamas serves as the unofficial Los Angeles of West Coast Russia. Okay, fine, for the geography nerds in the back, there is no “west coast” of Russia. But I hear the Ural Mountains are pretty brutal, so I guess that’s something.

What the band lacks in geographic water features, they more than makeup with obsessiveness about their Oblast. Songs like ‘Gorkyfication,’ ‘Polina Nizhny Novgorod,’ and ‘Under the Over-the-Horizon Radar Array,’ express the solitude, lack of future, and the menacing government presence looming over everyone in the region.

Granted, my own Russian Language skills are a little lacking, but that doesn’t really hurt the overall effect. Russian dialogue might as well be a Chili Peppers song anyway. Lead singer Ivan Porzivki might be singing about a magical evening spent with his soul mate. Or he could be rapping about banging a 14-year-old…honestly, I’d never fucking know the difference. The language barrier may be difficult at first, but endless lyrics about one’s hometown, no matter how interesting they may think it is, do eventually make you want to kill something, which is a rather handy skill to possess if one is to live in Mother Russia these days.

The future for BTR, like most bands with this much street cred, is pretty bleak, to be honest. Ivan says it’s a combination of touring schedules, record company demands, and Russian draft notices to ship the whole band to the front lines of the Ukraine conflict. Honestly, if I were you, I’d get into this band sooner rather than later.