I wish that the lyrics in this song were a metaphor. In a pleasant parallel universe in which I led a similar but noticeably cooler and more intelligent life, the lyrics of this song are modified to form a witty and sarcastic character assassination of whoever, using the theme of revolution as an analogy.
Not so in plain old boring reality. I don’t want to be too quick to judge, because I know this is an example of a light-hearted joke outliving its humour – Russian Step was never intended to be a serious comment on the Russian Revolution, nor dictatorships in general. I think I just wanted to write a flippant punky sort of number. The problem is that time adds weight to things. This song was almost always my school band’s encore track, and the bridge hook: ‘Why don’t you take your Russian step and step away again?’ was one of the few lines all of our friends could sing along to. So it occupies quite a large cell in the prison of my memory. And it sits there gathering nostalgic dust until its original form becomes obscured. We’re also far enough away in time from myself in this recording to lose a bit of subtlety in our appreciation of my character. It’s easy to see the song as encapsulating the whole of my personality, rather than just a throwaway expression I meant completely insincerely.
On the other hand… I know that I took music seriously, and I presumably wanted people to think my music was good. So even if the lyrics are a joke, the piece as a whole is meant to be real. It’s meant to be me. And this is a huge issue I’ve always had with these artistic endeavours. Too insincere to just sing about love, or the lack of. Throwing words together cynically because expressing some sort of truth would be cliché, but expecting the music itself to be treated sincerely. It doesn’t work. It’s like a private joke to myself. Incidentally, I heard an infamously bad recording of this school band recently, which I hadn’t listened to in over 5 years. We knew it was terrible at the time, but even so, it hasn’t aged well. And the worst thing about it is not the singing or the playing or the songs. It’s my stage chat. I literally said private jokes into the microphone. And I remember thinking it was cool that the audience wouldn’t get it. Just a nod from one of the band was what I was after. I enjoyed the stilted awkward vibe I gave off. I mean thank god the only people in the audience were 4-6 friends, there not to judge the quality of our band but to relish the teenage freedom of going to a mate’s gig / doggedly showing their support because of the sheer weight of pleading texts in their inbox.
So, Russian Step is about some sort of dictator who, it’s implied, will be overthrown, because everyone is bloody starving. It’s very upbeat, and was much more effective live in sweaty sticky underage venues. The guitar sound is not appropriate at all, it should be crunchier, dirtier. Same with the drums. This was a chronic issue for our band. Listen to the way the bassist and keys player sing that hook – it’s like they’re humming to themselves while trying to remember something else.
The end is the best part of Russian Step, and not just because you’re happy it’s over. Mainly that. But it’s tight. I can still hear the rapturous roar of up to 20 people rise up to me as that final bar ends.
Vive la Revolution!