City of Hysteria

Urgency is part of the history of the Czechoslovak rock band Pulnoc (pronounced pool-notes). Three of its seven members are veterans of Plastic People of the Universe, the seminal band whose repeated arrests in the mid-’70s helped spark Charter 77, the Czechoslovak human-rights coalition. Harassment and imprisonment eventually broke up Plastic People; now that Pulnoc (Czech for ”midnight”) is free to perform and record, their music still carries the scars of oppression: Their American debut, City of Hysteria, is full of brooding rhythms, eerie vocals, and the shaken, scary, screaming guitar of Milan Hlavsa. Although much of Pulnoc’s music is sung in Czech, listeners won’t need a dictionary to understand the drive behind a song like ”It’s Dangerous.” A few songs — a cover of Lou Reed’s ”All Tomorrow’s Parties,” for instance — are in English, but singer Michaela Nemcova’s haunting voice is effective in either language. The album is a beautiful and moving argument for freedom of expression. A

City of Hysteria
  • Music