In 1989, as walls fell and evil empires surrendered, philosopher Francis Fukuyama believed himself witness to “the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalisation of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.” For anyone born since (arguably) the Reagan/Gorbachev years, the world has evolved, but at a geostationary speed – incrementally and at no faster rate than we would expect it to as we age. For we who have known nothing but the cold comforts of Western capitalism, history itself is an abstraction. History, regardless of whether or not we believe it continues, does not happen to us.
Twenty years removed from her Soviet-era childhood, Regina Spektor reminds us with each breath – as an enthralling, enigmatic embodiment of it – that history is less than a generation ago and that there are those, not so far away in years or geography, who have lived it. To eulogise an era of which you have no experience would be disingenuous at best, and at worst no less than nauseating; equally, to attempt to arbitrarily ascribe Spektor’s entire musical personality to her nine earliest years would be, ahem, bullshit. Yet it is undeniable that what separates the 29 year old most distinctly from her so-called peers is her authenticity. Unlike that of nameless others, Regina’s “quirkiness”, her youthful exuberance or experimental impulsiveness as it might be more articulately (if not more accurately) labelled, is convincingly organic. When she explores her full sonic range within one phrase, contrary to our own better judgement, we find ourselves suspending cynicism and wrapping ourselves in the impetuous eccentricity of it all. We want to believe it, because we believe it.
Far, Spektor’s third major release, is not a carbon copy of the two that preceded it which were, essentially, two halves of the same whole. While the tone is no less authentic than in either 2006′s Begin To Hope or 2004′s Soviet Kitsch, it has been shorn of some of its roughest edges; for better or worse, it is a more aerodynamic vehicle for her talents. Maturity manifests itself differently for everyone and Spektor, it would seem, wants to seize the soapbox, to speak with purpose while she still has an audience. The misunderstood (if not outright polarising) single ‘Laughing With’ deals a complicated hand in god-speak, but Spektor is simply pointing out, in her own inimitable way, how religion often shifts from the divine to the ridiculous depending on your situation, poking fun at pray-for-pay preachers and “crazies” like, say, the Westboro Baptist Church. Zooming out from the human peculiarities of religion and war, ‘Blue Lips’ puts things into perspective through the eyes of a disillusioned man, while the playful ‘Machine’ takes a humorous look at the consumerism and hyper-connectivity of our modern existence.
Although the idiosyncrasies remain (‘The Calculation’ speaks of making computers “out of macaroni pieces”; ‘Folding Chair’ finds Spektor imitating the calls of dolphins), they have been reined in by the album’s four producers, and are employed more selectively than ever before. Cut from one cloth, Far is a testament to the album form, as well as a successful dismissal of “Regina’s Rivals”. Reeking of eau d’authenticité and trying desperately to appear effortlessly cool, they just don’t cut it. Regina’s the real thing.
UK release date: 22/06/09; www.myspace.com/reginaspektor
‘Dance Anthem Of The 80s’
‘Man Of A Thousand Faces’
‘Blue Lips’ [live]
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