No, the band’s not actually from Russia.
Chicago four-piece Mr. Russia produces a pulsing, core-shaking punk that recalls the aggressive work of The Stooges, and “Teething,” the band’s debut full-length from earlier this year, practically throbs out of the speakers. Heavy, melodic and fast, Mr. Russia crushes you. Without guitars.
Drums, keys and two basses, the relentless assault is both thrilling and haunting. More the latter on “Training for the Gameshow Host,” the band’s new EP (the release of which is celebrated this week). The foursome eases up on the attack and leaves more open space—the results are strangely chilling, as if these are the sounds Iggy Pop hears in his dreams. Mr. Russia’s courageous attempt to cover Radiohead’s “The National Anthem” should be lauded just for the audacity; the bonus is that the track actually works, and pretty well at that. “I want to love you like a fireball,” the lyrical hook in, you guessed it, “Fireball,” could be on a t-shirt. This is good-fun rock ‘n’ roll, this Mr. Russia.
“A lot of people go, ‘Why don’t you have a guitar?’ And not to sound snarky, but it’s like, ‘Why doesn’t your band have a tuba? We just don’t,’” says Ivan Russia, singer and one of the bassists. “We didn’t need it, we didn’t have it, and we never missed it.”
Ivan says the change in musical direction on the new EP was intended. “I was really sort of fed up with feeling like I was in a punk band,” he says, “even though I didn’t consider it that. The way our set went, ‘OK, here’s another song at 150 bpm.’ It really made me mad.”
The process of writing, recording and releasing the new EP was relatively quick, as the band worked to get the new material to the public as fast as possible. “We wanted to get the album out while it’s still warm out,” Ivan says. “It sounds good with the windows down.”
Ivan can’t predict what’s in store for the band in the future, but he insists, “Before anything gets dull, we’ll be doing something else…I can’t tell you where we are going, but I promise it won’t be boring.” (Tom Lynch)
Mr. Russia plays September 11 at Subterranean, 2011 W. North, (773)278-6600, at 7:30pm. $5.