DEZERTER: Jeszcze Zywy Czlowiek: LP

I would venture to guess that the average contemporary punker under the age of, oh, thirty or so would have one pisser of a time fathoming just how fuckin’ hard it was to be openly active in the punk thing during the 1980s. Sure, some places it’s still a bit rough to walk around with “fuck” written on yer shirt, and no, this is not some “when I was a youngster” diatribe, so you can unbunch your undies now. Merely sayin’ sometimes it was fuckin’ hard and varying levels of dangerous back then to be a punk, even in freewheeling, “liberal” places like Los Angeles, New York and so on. Lotta fighting, violence, police harassment, assholes on the hunt for mohawked freaks, catcalls, and, on occasion, some serious beat downs were the order of the day, often for no more than having the temerity to have your hair cut a certain way, the shirt you were wearing, or even the color and cut of your Levis. Now, imagine if you will, not only dealing with all the usual bullshit, but to do so under the constant scrutiny and threat of reprisal from a totalitarian regime. Dezerter was a punk/hardcore band raising hell in fuggin’ 1980s Soviet-controlled Poland, an existence that no doubt required a level of dedication and huevos of steel that most punks dealing with shit in 1980s United States or England likely couldn’t have fathomed. Throughout that period, they were hassled for their name (they originally went under the name SS-20 after the Soviet missiles aimed at points West until the government decided no, that name wasn’t a good one for a band to have), hassled with authorities over “controversial” lyrics and had to keep modifying their name on gig flyers to keep one step ahead of the powers that be. Somehow, though, they still managed to become quite popular in Poland, released a few records (one of which, 1987’s Underground out of Poland, managed to be released in the United States by Maximumrocknroll and is considered one of Poland’s most crucial musical releases), and play to large festivals. The recording presented on this double LP, parts of which were originally released on a cassette of the same name and on Underground out of Poland, is of a live performance at the 1984 installment of the Jarocin Festival in front of some 20,000 people. True to form, their set courted controversy and, according to the liner notes, included some drama over the band’s concern for the safety of the crowd, something the event’s organizers apparently weren’t interested in concerning themselves with. The sound quality is mostly straight off the board, with occasional bits from a crowd recording to fill in the gaps, the performance is strong, and the historical significance of this recording is off the charts; a crucial document of a time when being a “punk” was a wee bit more of an act of civil defiance than it is now, where too many bands are more interested in units shifted, popularity polls, and figuring out which major label to ink a deal with than they are about being aware of what’s going on in their world and what can be done about it. For the record, Dezerter remains an active band, with releases spotting the past three decades, and I’m willing to bet you’ve better odds of getting hit by a meteor than they have of ever becoming Disney Radio’s latest punk-fop darlings and yes, that’s exactly how it should be.

 –jimmy (Pasazer)