SLOVAKIA: Den Medzi Nedelou A Pondelkom - Peha
Indie rock with a pop sensibility, Peha manage to make their mark on Slovakian music
The small European nation of Slovakia is well known in the UK, where I am from, for its pilsener style beers, its mountains, as well as its history of being joined up with the Czech Republic during the Cold War, but it is not so well known for its musical output, which is prodigious. From the 1960s onwards there has been a wealth of pop and rock music produced in Slovakia, so much so that in 2007 the most widely read Slovakian newspaper Nový Čas released a list of the 100 greatest Slovakian albums, in the vein of those Rolling Stone lists that pop up every now and again. Chosen by a panel of Slovakian critics, broadcasters, music producers, and musicians (including the well-known Slovak musician Pavol Hammel, nine of whose albums appear on the list, one of which is number one on the list – I smell foul play…), the list is nonetheless an interesting insight into 50 years of Slovakian pop music. Indie rock band Peha’s 2005 release Deň medzi nedeľou a pondelkom appeared 8th on the list. Usually, I don’t pay much attention to these lists, but I did find it interesting to read it, and see what is acclaimed in Slovakia, a country I must admit I do not know a great deal about. Peha’s 2005 album was the peak of their relatively short-lived tenure as a band, and I can see why it was regarded so highly by the jury of Nový Čas, even relatively short time between its release and the list.
“It’s brimming with breezy charm and a warm energy that’s certainly disarming, and, once you’ve settled in, entertaining.”
Spomal was the big hit on the album, winning an Aurel Award, which for those of you who don’t know (which I have to assume is most of you) is a kind of Slovakian award akin to a Grammy. It’s a good song, and while I can see why it may have been the biggest hit, it’s not my favourite song. Unlike the rest of the album which is broadly describable as indie rock, this is an earnest, piano-led power ballad, sung with real emotion by lead singer Katarína Knechtová. Mid-tempo and only containing vocals and piano, it is placed in the middle of the album, and as such it acts as a refreshing and delicate change of pace, like a raspberry sorbet as an amuse bouche mid-meal. That’s not to say that the rest of the album is like listening to Megadeth on crack, but it’s certainly a nice change. Perhaps the rockiest number on the album is the title track, which I must say really does do the business in gently rocking your socks off. However, Za Tebou is my favourite song on the album, a pop rock anthem for the ages. In a way it reminds me of Alanis Morissette’s iconic tune Hand in my Pocket, and both have a similar slow build of momentum until the chorus, where things become more dramatic, which I like very much. Sure, Knechtová doesn’t have a voice as good as Morissette’s, but then again, who does?
Deň medzi nedeľou a pondelkom is certainly a good album. Is it particularly memorable? Perhaps not. The band wear their influences on their sleeve (you can variously hear the influence of bands like The Cure, Weezer, Garbage – among others) and it does have a tendency to slide towards the generic, with many of the songs sounding similar to other, better songs, but it never slips into the territory of plagiarism. Nonetheless, it’s brimming with breezy charm and a warm energy that’s certainly disarming, and, once you’ve settled in, entertaining. It’s the sound of the Bratislava summer, circa 2005. One thing in its favour is there isn’t really a bad song here. They are all, in their own way, extremely listenable and enjoyable. It may not indelibly imprint itself inside your brain, possessing you with that fiery fury of compulsion to relisten and relisten over and over again like the best albums or songs can do, but… it is nice. It is fun. It goes down easy with a Bacardi and coke. And sometimes, isn’t that enough?