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POP MUSIC REVIEW : Gorky Park’s Refreshing Metal

Suppose for a second that some going-nowhere Hollywood hard-rock band decided that, hey, Russian stuff is hot, so why not pretend to be from the Soviet Union--throw some Russian folk melodies into the otherwise conventional songs, even do a rockin’ instrumental of the “Song of the Volga Boatmen” and talk about Glasnostic peace, love and understanding with Russian accents.

It would probably come off a lot like Gorky Park, a real Moscow hard-rock band that made its Los Angeles debut on Tuesday at the Whisky in West Hollywood. But the quintet was more guileless and fashion-oblivious than any Hollywood band could possibly be--it looked more like Bo Donaldson & the Heywoods than Skid Row.

There was something refreshing about this appearance in the HQ of leather-and-hair-extension bands. Even such platitudinal fare as the anthem-like “Peace in Our Time” (written for Gorky Park by Bon Jovi) and a spirited encore of “Jailhouse Rock” benefited from the band’s sincere joy at playing in heavy-metal central. And a couple of its songs manage to achieve a real Russian-metal hybrid, though the grafting of a martial folk song to “My Generation” is wince-worthy.

But beyond that, Gorky Park--with its recent PolyGram debut album, the first Soviet hard-rock band signed to a major Western label--doesn’t really have much to offer. Much of the 65-minute set could have passed for Winger or Warrant. And even in Moscow, that’s probably less novel today than the sight of a Soviet band is in Hollywood.

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