Saturday, April 4, 2009

They Stank, We Stanker; or, What is the Sound of No Hands Clapping?

I will begin this post by giving credit where proper credit is due: for a more informed, and superbly written post regarding Hungarian punk band Büdösök, click here. I know the Little Black Egg is – at this very moment (!) – working hard on a Miskolc punk rock primer, so we all have that to look forward to.

I have to admit, by last summer I had all but given up hope on finding any Hungarian punk rock band worth getting the back of my hand branded with black ink by some brutish doorman for (if none of those stamps washed off I would look like one of those Looney Tunes suitcases that made its way around the world, stickers from each country). Question: can one balls-to-the-wall punk rock band revive my lowly opinion regarding Hungo-rock? Answer: no. Because Büdösök seem to be the exception that makes the rule. To wit: earlier in the winter I went to see a Hungarian ‘underground music’ festival and I am not going to name and shame here, but most of the evening was a hodge podge of pastiches of popular music from abroad, played by proficient, but not terribly committed musicians. That these bands were the first ones to jump on the trend bandwagon makes them ‘underground’ I guess. But damn if the club wasn’t packed with cute H & M-outfitted Hungarian hipsters, many from the crowd lingering until the early hours of the morning. Contrast that with the Büdösök show. The Büdösök faithful comprise three punks who can usually be seen panhandling in the Blaha Luiza underpass, some rightfully wary travelers from a nearby hostel, and a handful of hard-drinking middle age men (men who wear big metal belt buckles without irony and order their mugs of beer two at a time).

The show itself was in the tiny Kamra club in the Eight District. Büdösök were supposed to start at eight, but they didn’t make it on stage until around ten. By that time the lead singer was thoroughly wasted, spilled his drink on his keyboards, and would only address the audience in a really creepy baby voice. It was either going to be a fantastic show or a total loss of my eight-hundred forints. Turns out, it was a bit of both.

Kind of shockingly, the first thing I noticed was that two-thirds of Büdösök could have been stand-ins for actor playing Hitler in The Last Days. I am still not sure if it was intentional, or if people from Miskolc just kind of look like that. The bass player resembled a studious skin head, and throughout the first song alternated between jabbing at the strings like he was stabbing his instrument to death and strumming as though it was a rhythm guitar. That’s kind of what they are about: chaotic, childlike outbursts where the singer caterwauls like Nick Cave in one of his his most onomatopoeic Birthday Party fits, followed by abrupt silences, and vaguely catchy choruses. Oh, and there was a horn, which somehow fit just right. Büdösök offer a gristly cacophony that has been pounded with a tenderizer into something vaguely palatable. Some of the songs actually had hooks, and a least two of them made reference to Santa Claus.

Then things got strange. This is the only show I have ever attended where nobody clapped or cheered in between the songs. There was just an eerie tension. I mean, it was uncanny and seriously weird. The only time somebody dared to shout something (it sounded encouraging, but it was in Italian) the singer from Büdösök yelled back “küss!”, which roughly translates as ‘shut the fuck up!” But by the end of the show, I was totally invigorated. They had played for about an hour. There was no encore, nor was there a call for one.

Büdösök are confrontational in the perpetually adolescent way only punk rock can be. They have the mark of authenticity that is missing from about, well, every local band I have seen in the pop/punk genre. Indeed, the really great thing about Büdösök is that they exist on their own terms, and kowtow to nobody. They will never play main stage at the Sziget, they won’t even get a chance at an alt-minded Gumipop show: they must know all this by now, and most likely knew it from the get-go. They are bound to fail, and from the looks of it, failure was probably the only acceptable result. But isn’t that at least part of what punk rock is about? Remember when punk was for misfits and outcast? Anyway, I don’t want to get too deep into the psyche of Büdösök, it is a dark, no doubt labyrinthine place: a place where Chucky dolls go when they die (though, as we have learned, Chucky dolls NEVER die).

I don’t think I have heard a more unique Hungarian band than Büdösök. That said, I do not particularly want to be a Büdösök fan. It is a lonely assignment. It means you are the only one clapping in between songs, and will get told to shut the fuck up for doing so. Right now, I am only too happy to.


Rick said...

Easily the best band in all of Hungary. EVER. Supposedly Büdösök is recording new material. I seriously can't wait.

Mokus said...

Indeed, they are playing around Budapest more these days. You may want to check out a band called Flash, who have a similar vision.

Rick said...

Do they have anything on Myspace or Youtube? Are they Hungarian?

Mokus said...

They are old school Hungarian punk: I have never checked them out on the net - but I have a few albums that are pretty good, and they play with Büdösök now and again.