Today, Balkan Express is stopping in Croatia. Again. True, the last couple of episodes of this here show were mostly hopping between Slovenia and its southern neighbour. But this where the action has been over the past few weeks and this week is no different. Doubly so as today is Valentine’s day. To be completely fair, Let 3 were featured in one of the early episodes of Balkan Express. But not only is that episode lost in the mists of time, the shock-art rockers from the port city of Rijeka have gone and done it again.
Granted, on the face of it Let 3 have absolutely nothing to do with St. Valentine’s. Other than the fact their performances are often provocative, obscene and often scantily clad. Oh, and that the band are not beyond performing with a rose between their arse-cheeks. So yeah, basically what st. Valentines has become ever since capitalism took over.
Not just a shock-rock act
Let 3, or Flight Three, if you insist on a translation, came into existence in 1987, making them one of the longest running acts of modern Croatian rock. And while the lineup has changed over the years, frontmen Damir Martinović a.k.a. Mrle and Zoran Prodanović a.k.a. Prlja remain the mainstays of the band. Right now, they are joined by Dražen Baljak on guitar and mandolin, Matej Zec – Knki on guitar and backing tracks and drummer Ivan Bojčić – Bin.
However, Let 3 are and have always been much more than just a shock-rock act. They are a walking, talking – that is to say, singing – artistic performance with a definite iconoclastic streak. They have not met a social institution they didn’t want to insult. And the more monolithic it is, the more they seem to enjoy bringing it down a peg. Especially if it involves public morality. In Croatia, this includes (but is not limited to) the Roman Catholic Church, the patriarchy and nationalism.
Morality, patriotism and small-mindedness
On one hand, their debut album, released in 1989 was titled Two Dogs Fucking and vulgarity-wise things only went south from there. Album titles like Živi Kurac / Live Cock in 1994 was augmented by a 2008 release of Živa Pička / Live Cunt, followed by Kurcem do vjere/ Faith Through Cock in 2013. In between, they stirred the simmering pot of Croatia-Serbia relations by releasing an album titled Bombardiranje Srbije i Čačka / The Bombing of Serbia and Čačak. And we should not forget the 2016 release of Angela Merkel Sere / Angela Merkel Takes A Crap.
Over the years, Let 3 released 10 albums, each more provocative than the last one. But the joke was always on those who were enraged by such titles. Like their 1997 album Nečuveno / Unheard Of, which was released in only 350 copies, to great anticipation of all the faux-intellectuals and wannabes. Imagine their shock when they discovered that the supposed collector’s item was, in fact, an empty CD. Unheard of, indeed. Without exemption, albums by Let 3 are works of art of the highest quality that shone brightest when fueled by impotent rage of self-proclaimed guardians of morality, patriotism and suburban small-mindedness disguised as good taste.
Taking on Eurosong
Which brings us to their latest coup. After winning countless awards for their music and theatre productions, videos, tracks and artworks, Let 3 have decided to take on that most venerated and derided of musical institutions: the Eurovision Song Contest. Dressed in latex drag clothing, latex pink and glittering military outfits, with overdone make-up and what may or may not be the Hitler moustache, they sing of tractors, little psychopaths and nuclear rockets. The anti-war song ŠČ is a not-so-subtle dig at Vladimir Putin and his Belarusian lap-dog Aleksandr Lukašenko. But then again, it could easily have been some other dictator with a small appendage and affinity for big rockets. Also, there’s roses protruding from their arse-cheeks, so there’s something for everyone.
Check out Let 3 of YouTube, Spotify and wherever you get your music from. Balkan Express will be back in two week’s time.
Balkan Express takes weekly trips into contemporary musical production of, you guessed it, the Balkans. Forget gusle and tamburice, this show is about rock, pop and a sense of humour. Well, at least there’s guitars. On air most Tuesdays in a new-and-improved time-slot at 1100 hrs. Usually. Your train conductor is Aljaž (aka @pengovsky) who once did the world a solid and decided never to sing again in public. Which is why he ended up doing radio.
TuesdaysWith : Aljaž Every Tuesday at 10.00
Balkan Express takes weekly trips into contemporary musical production of the Balkans.