Abaddon magazine

Music magazine

Monday, October 3, 2022

Review: Hoću? Neću! – Srpski san

Label: Mad Schnauzer Records

Date: May 22nd, 2022

I have recently read (and reviewed) a book titled “Kraljevačka punk hronika”. The whole phenomenon of the punk scene in Kraljevo, back in war-torn Yugoslavia of 1990’s, was put to the spotlight. However, most of the band names and releases exposed within the pages of the book are hard to come by these days. Of course, without those, one cannot fully take in what’s written in the chronicle.

Thankfully, we have Mad Schnauzer Records, one of whose leaders originated from Kraljevo. What will hopefully become a full series of re-releases, started with a tape by Sedativ and this here vinyl by Hoću? Neću!.

As the importance and influence of this album is fully explained in “Kraljevačka punk hronika” and in the liner notes inside of this 12” LP, I won’t waste too much space (or your time) by further examining it. Get the book and this LP as well. Though it is (unfortunately) all written in Serbian, with some resilience you should be able to translate it to whatever your native language might be.

And trust me, the story is very interesting. To a point where a documentary film could easily be one of the most exiting stories of what punk is and should forever be. If nothing else, these two releases are worth their weight in gold just for this aspect.

Truth be told, “Srpski san” is not the best Serbian punk release. From the musical perspective and especially from the arrangements’ point of view. There are many albums much better in those regards. However, when you put it in perspective… It was 1995 and the (un)civil war in former Yugoslavia has just ended, just to give place to a terrifying autocracy and dictatorship, under the cape of nationalism, organized crime and utter disregard to ethics and morality. In short, it was a time when the mere existence of a band such as Hoću? Neću! was impossible to even think about.

Yet, they existed. And were quite active. And not only as a band, but as activists in various struggles for normalization of life in the country and beyond. Fraternizing with the “enemy” was a big no-no in Serbia back then. But Hoću? Neću! kept contact with Croats, Bosnians, Slovenians…

DIY ethics kept the band with both feet firmly on the ground and since nothing was quite right in the country at the time, it was a thematic “free-for-all” when it came to the lyrics and the topics covered. On top of the somewhat naïve outlook at the thrashed hardcore, there is wide variety of issues addressed in the verses. From the said nationalism and degraded morals, there’s talk about media and its propaganda, racism, human and animal rights, sexism, anti-warmongering… Across twelve tracks, the spit is simply flying away from the lips of the band’s singer. In whichever direction. The band spares no one.

What makes “Srpski san” (“Serbian dream”) stand out, at least to my ears, are the narratives which we’re used to hearing live, in between songs of many punk bands. In this particular case, they are carefully embedded in the tracks themselves. Particularly interesting are the female narrations, most notably in the anti-sexism track “Nogom u muda” (“Foot to the bollocks”). A couple of songs start with neatly selected samples which correctly announce the idea behind the songs.

As for the musical side, I’ve already mentioned Hoću? Neću! (Will I? I won’t!) is a somewhat naïve attempt. Perhaps one can even call it amateurish and it won’t be too wrong. Still, you need to once again put things into perspective. This was a time when the instruments were next to impossible to acquire. Getting acquainted with what’s happening on the global scene is another impossibility in a country under UN sanctions for the past years. That’s why, when you observe “Srpski san” from a perspective of a bunch of unprivileged kids, it actually sounds impressive. There’s a bunch of hate-filled riffs. Rabid drumming sets the tempo up high, hammering the thoughts into the listener’s minds. Bass is out there, quite audible, despite the low budget recording conditions. And those untamed vocals, though starting out kind of shy, turn into enraged, vicious attacks. The music, in short, is a simplistic view at a crossover between thrash metal and hardcore punk, with the later taking more space than the former.

Again, if you approach Hoću? Neću! from a viewpoint of a global network of punk bands, you will probably end up disappointed. That’s exactly why you need the mentioned book and this LP, which you will start by reading a short fanzine included inside, containing thoughts and memories by those who were there, including the author of the book and one of the label’s owners. With the vinyl you will also acquire a booklet with all the lyrics as well as some newspaper crops of the time additionally explaining the sort of country Serbia was back in the mid 1990’s. And the original cover artwork as well.

So, don’t hesitate, since the release is limited and it’s going out of stock fast. You will miss out, trust me!