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Tsar Wars, Never Forgotten
There are those events in life in which you remember each and every detail; the sunlight coming through the window, the smell of the stale July heat, and the disheveled bed that you hastily threw that package on as you couldn’t wait to rip into. You see, in that packaged contained both the vinyl and CD of The Space Cossacks’ Interstellar Stomp of which I had been wearing out the Real Player samples of on the Space Cossacks', then, cutting edge website. While Interstellar Stomp would be the jewel of most any other package this package also contained the brand new Cossacks album, Tsar Wars. From that album I had heard The Defector, and immediately thought, “This is no Red Sunrise”. This was not the only mistake I was to make as a 16-year-old. This mistake is a common one, playing music outside of the context of which it was intended. You see, Tsar Wars is no mere album. It isn’t an experience, it isn’t even a journey. It is an adventure.
Tsar Wars was released under hurried conditions by MuSick Recordings, with the Cossacks heading to California for a 3-date tour in March of 2000. On March 26th, at the Rendezvous Ballroom Reunion, the first copies of Tsar Wars were sold by the band. The LP, a gorgeous purple marble with silver labels, and the CD, an interactive CD, both contain cover art by Shag and illustrations by Steve Blickenstaff. On that CD, a novella written by Jamie Miles with illustrations by Blickenstaff. The novella, follows the trajectory of the album through a classic story of a man and his car, a classic surf music trope. The difference, is the car is a spaceship and he is relentlessly pursued by an evil alien species and it is up to him to save the day.
One could have an album consisting of number 1 hits, and still have a so-so album. The true power and beauty of the ‘album’ lies in the tracklisting. A perfect album, like Tsar Wars, has a unique feel, tells a story, and causes the world to disappear as you listen to it. Tsar Wars is truly compelling, it’s first track setting the tone of the album. On this track we know something serious is happening as the reversed audio leads to frantic drums and fragile double-picking that resolves to pummeled double-picking only to bring forth a beautiful melody to break the tension before returning to whence it came. As we progress from that perfect opening track the album moves hearts with The Jewel of Duende, creates euphoria with Escape from Gulag 17, and causes us to celebrate with ¡Fiesta Del Cossacapulco! This is an uncertain time, an era of unease, this is Tsar Wars. It is heavy, it is dark, it is triumphant, this is Tsar Wars.
To the author, Tsar Wars went where no surf music had gone before. Arpeggios, double-stops, reverse audio, acoustic guitar, texture, and dynamics to die for. I never had the Shadows or the Atlantics growing up, but I had the Space Cossacks. This is why I am not alone in celebrating the 15th anniversary of Tsar Wars.
Please keep reading for a modern review by our very own Noel and reviews from circa 2000 as well as an interview with Art B of MuSick Recordings.
And be sure to share your thoughts on the forum threads: LINK TO FORUM THREAD