Art-punk in the guitar bar

  • 2008-03-19
  • By Howard Jarvis

Rock on: After a decade, Biplan is producing the best stuff that they have ever made. Their new album is red hot, catch them while you can.

VILNIUS  - Could pop music in the Baltic countries ever measure up to the likes of the Beatles and the Stones? Or is it all just sentimental, over-produced, formulaic noise pollution?
When they emerged in the mid-90s, Lithuanian band Biplan fell into the latter description, creating likable, hummable, but ultimately ephemeral cheese-pop. Their gratingly catchy tunes got a lot of airplay and they quickly scored a series of big hits on home territory. They even made inroads into the lucrative Russian market after re-recording their songs with Russian lyrics.

For the 2005 album Chuligans, however, the band managed to pull off an image-change quicker than Kylie Minogue can pull on her hotpants. The result was nothing less than phenomenal.
By radically beefing up their sound, Biplan created a set of fresh, punchy, highly accomplished songs that brought to mind U.S. neo-punk band Green Day and the best of Britrock. Propitiously, this jubilantly brash art-punk sound proved to be just as popular with Lithuanian audiences as the band's previous guises.
Live the band flourishes. With charismatic, dye-blond Max'as Melman kicking and screaming out front, the chord changes are quick and tight. All four musicians keep perfect pace.

An upcoming gig at Tamsta Club, one of Vilnius' most atmospheric live music venues, is likely to rock the foundations of the nearby 17th-century Artillery Bastion. Hopefully, the audience will also be treated to several new songs from an eagerly awaited follow-up to Chuligans.
Provocative crowd-pleasers from the 2005 album that will only benefit from another blast include Sok ir nesustok (Kosova) with its Bregovic-style brass section, often replaced by a raw guitar sound on stage, and the beery pub-rock of Golden Boj. This is the sound of a band thoroughly enjoying themselves.
Biplan have boldly stepped into a void left by legendary early-nineties Lithuanian ska-punk terrorists Bix, bringing the "Oi!" triumphantly back into Lithuanian pop music.

Tamsta is a favorite venue for Biplan. Its casual, bohemian setting, regularly offers treats to fans of anarchic live music. Open from Wednesdays to Saturdays, it also hosts everything from blues and jazz to alternative rock and hip hop. Even gospel. The acoustics are well balanced, giving a crisp, vibrant sound.

The bar features an impressively large replica of a guitar. Behind its strings lie the back lit bottles of your favorite alcoholic potion. The barstools are drums you can tap on when the spirit moves you. The ceilings are dark blue and designed in a semi-industrial style with fashionably exposed pipes. In contrast, dark red spotlights create a warm glow and relaxed aura. Paintings of musicians by local artists line the walls, giving the place additional warmth and contributing to Tamsta's bohemian atmosphere. Just the right setting to enjoy a fine band like Biplan.

Biplan play Tamsta Club
Subaciaus 11, Vilnius
March 22