One of my favorite things about doing this blog is how much it exposes me to music from far-flung corners of the world that we folks here in the sheltered, self-absorbed and increasingly police-state-like U.S. of A. seldom get to hear. And every time we get another country into the mix, our awesome readers are very good at turning us on to all the other weird shit coming out of that country that we might otherwise have overlooked. Case in point: After we wrote about veteran Czech avant-garde rock band Už jsme doma earlier this year, we started getting bombarded with all kinds of crazy stuff from the Czech Republic, which we now know is — thanks in no small part to Už jsme doma’s influence — a hotbed of wild, genre-bending, experimental music. It’s like the entire Czech rock scene is still having a “fuck communism” freedom party nearly 30 years after Václav Havel and co. kicked the Soviets out.
Of all the many crazy Czech bands we’ve been discovering, none is crazier than První hoře, a Prague quintet whose music might best be described as circus prog-rock — or “futuristic punk-jazz cabaret,” which is how they describe themselves on their Bandcamp page. Accordion, metal guitars, odd time signatures, alternately operatic and spastic vocals, and the occasional flute solo collide on nearly every track. It’s wildly entertaining stuff, made all the more entertaining live by Pan Klaun I, their clown accordionist.
První hoře, whose name apparently means First
Mountain Sorrow [Update: according to a reader who’s a native Czech speaker and “former roommate of the bass player,” that’s the correct translation], have been around since 1998 and released at least six albums, the most recent of which, Křehký mechanismus pozemského štěstí (Fragile Mechanism of Earthly Happiness) came out last year. We don’t know much about them beyond that, because there’s virtually no information about them online in English. Based on running this page through the ever-shaky Google translator, I gather they were all teenagers when the band first formed in a town called Jičín, and that their third album, Lamento, won something called the “Angel Award for Best Rock Plate” (that’s probably Google translator for “Best Rock Album,” but I kinda prefer the badly translated version) in 2008. Oh, and they’ve also toured with Už jsme doma, which is a double bill I would’ve flown to the Czech Republic to see.
The band has made a few music videos, most of which appear to be assembled from old aerobics tapes and other found footage. But this original clip for the song Otčenáš, from Lamento, is pretty great — as is the track itself, which comes close to something like pop music while still remaining firmly in the eccentric world of První hoře. It’s like The Mars Volta meets Minus the Bear, with accordions.
I’ll leave you with my favorite track from Křehký mechanismus pozemského štěstí, which happens to be the title track. It starts off sounding like Gabriel-era Genesis but trust me, it really goes off the deep end about three minutes in.