It was late July/early August 1984. My brother and
I were working at my grandparents place, shifting the gravel to earn some
pocket money we would spend for ice cream and lemonade later on. The day was
bloody hot. I didn't like the idea of breaking my back, but couldn't help it.
The pile of gravel was waiting for us, shovels were lying around, the work had
to be done.
Partibrejkers trying to look cool for their album shot.
pic by: Stanislav Milojkovic '84.
Small AM radio was turned
to the local station that played some, more or less, middle of the road
stuff. My mouth was sore dry and I was on a brink of collapse when the
announcer introduced the new band from Belgrade - Partibrejkers - and
their debut single "Hiljadu Godina" ("One Thousand Years").
It was something I haven't heard before - fast, loud and dangerous for
sure. I couldn't give
such a description then, but it sounded like The New York Dolls on speed
playing some prime Pretty Things tune. The drummer seemed untamed, guitars (no
bass) fought against each other and singer desperately yelled how even if he
could live one thousand years he would fit his whole life into one day. To a
young teenager, like myself then, that was the only and whole
A couple of months later I finally got the chance
to hear B side of that single - again on the radio - this time in a car on our
way to Greece. It wasn't as fast as "Hiljadu Godina", but the energy was
there. Also, my father was irritated by the lyrics.
We survived Orwellian 1984
(after all it was better than expected), and welcomed 1985. When I think
about it 1985 wasn't such a good year for r'n'r - Sonic Youth and Hüsker
Dü were about to make it big, punk and new wave were dead and well, most
of the excitement was gone. Somewhere in hazy Australian pubs kids were
trying to give much needed adrenalin injection into the veins of
punkrock, while in L.A. The Lazy Cowgirls released their first album,
which was just a pale image of what they'd become later.That same year
Partibrejkers released their debut self-titled LP - the best punk'n'roll
record released that year.
Cane: "If Lux can eat a microphone, I can eat TWO!!!"
But, let's reveal some history first: apparently
they formed in 1981. Don't know about the rest of the band, but singer Cane
was in an excellent punk band Radnicka Kontrola, which, unfortunately, ended
up releasing only 2 songs on a compilation LP. The first Partibrejkers song
that saw the light of day was "Radio Utopia", which opened Vol. 1 of the
series of comp. albums with some unsigned ("demo") Yugo bands. The song was
good, but it didn't present the power they'd give us a year or two
Partibrejkers (which means 'Partybreakers', and is actually spelled as it is
pronounced in Serbian) had their debut out in 1985. As with nearly every new
band in Yugoslavia at that moment, they got some radio and TV airplay. At
first it seemed as if they were going to make it, but I'll talk about it
"Partibrejkers" is the best album ever released in
Yugoslavia, even though I hate to give such qualifications. There are several
Yugo records that come very close to this one, but each and every one of them
has some weak moment, while this one hasn't got any. It is perfect. I mean, if
I gave my Top 10 list of LPs this one would be in it, right there with the
Velvets, MC 5, The Stooges and Ramones - it is that good. Front cover, back
cover, lettering, lyrics, music, arrangements, playing, production, their
clothes and shoes - everything is 10 out of 10.
The cover is a shot of
the band in action - cliche, but works in some cases, and in this one in
particular. I'm sure if you're a punk rock fanatic and come across this album,
you would buy it without prior listening, just by looking at the cover. The
drummer looks like a runaway prisoner, singer like a skinhead who forgot to
shave his head for a few weeks, the guitar player as if he was undecided (but
still comfortable) and another one (very garagey looking) levitating in the
air. Back cover contains lyrics written in strange, square spiral (if you get
me), way and credits done in punk manner, ie. "nickname -
first thing you could hear when the stylus strikes the opening song "Ako Si"
("If You Are") are the guitars, and the only thing you can feel is the force,
which won't you throughout all 11 songs of this album. It is possible that
they just came up with the wordplay on The Heartbreakers. One thing that's for
sure is that Partibrejkers were influenced by that Johnny Thunders's outfit,
as well as by NY Dolls, Stooges, MC 5, Dictators and the like. Also, it's
obvious they were hooked on r'n'b.
None of the songs
exceeds the limit of four chords (maybe a chord or two extra for a chorus),
and the thing that makes it all more exciting is the absence of the bass
guitar - only two guitars, both lead and rhythm, depends on perception. Now,
you tell me, how many years before The Gories, Cheater Slicks and Oblivians
Producer was Koja, once in a seminal punk band
Šarlo Akrobata, then in nearly as good Disciplina Kicme (now based in London,
playing rave shit - at least that's what I've been told - how dull!). No
matter how great the Partibrejkers were then, he made them sound even better
on record - loud guitars, thumping drums and sharp vocals. Think about "My
Machine" by The Humpers and anything by Teengenerate and you'll get a pretty
close picture of the sound on this album. Even the break between the songs is
so short, which makes it all even more fast-paced and dynamic.
desperate urban stories of love, hate, alienation, fear, lust, hope, and even
child abuse (with a chorus: "Tajna Tatina Devojka" - "Secret Daddy's Girl").
These songs helped me through my turbulent puberty better than any friend,
girl, psychologist, drug or alcohol ever could. I can imagine what the author
of the lyrics must've been through before writing it, for there's no way they
As said earlier, it seemed they would make it with
their debut - their videos had a fair bit of airplay and they hit the charts,
but nothing major happened. Knowing the circumstances back home then, I would
say they sold up to 10,000 copies of the album, which was considered to be
kind of a disaster for a new band on one of the two biggest labels in the
country, and would usually end with dropping the band off. I can't say for
sure if that happened in this case, but the band broke up soon after releasing
their first LP.
Apparently, their early shows were great. The only
live performance (in the line-up that played on the album) I've seen was the
TV broadcast of Yugoslavian Band Aid (if you thought Band Aid and USA For
Africa were bad wait to hear this one). Promoters managed to put up the gig on
the biggest soccer stadium in Yugoslavia and lined up the crappiest pop/rock
bands of the moment. Don't ask me who decided to let Partibrejkers play, but
I'm sure the person who's done it got fired immediately. There they were -
Partibrejkers were playing live right there in my home! I could've just
stretched my arm and touch them. It was excellent, though only 3 songs, but
they were cranking it up and the singer ran amok on stage. My father got
The cover of awesome Partibrejkers' debut. Pic by: Stanislav
Too good to last, as they said. The band ceased to
exist. Anton, a guitarist, shortly after played in another cool band called
Placenici (Hitmen - now, that's not coincidence any more!). The singer also
joined some band, but they didn't last long. The other guitar player seemed to
be very quiet for the next several years, while the drummer, Manzanera,
disappeared (virtually, I think).
Maybe the Partibrejkers
weren't around anymore, but they left a huge testimony to the kids out there.
They didn't sell too many records, but all the people who bought their album
"went on to form their own bands". Soon after their demise lots of guys all
over Yugoslavia realised that they could do it too, and they've done it.
Overnight the city clubs became occupied by new punkish r'n'r bands to the
delight of all the people (me included) who thought the r'n'r died with
Partibrejkers. Unfortunately, major labels didn't want to have anything to do
with these bunch of degenerates, so all that's left from that period are
several cassette-only releases. Still, at the same time, independent record
labels started forming up day by day, but that's another story.
"Are we cool enough for
you punksters or what?" The drummer (back) looks like he had one too many.
Pic by: Goranka Matic, '84
Around early 1986 Partibrejkers reformed with a new
line-up. Only the singer and guitarist were still in the band, with the new
drummer, and bassist instead of second guitarist. I checked one of their first
gigs and it was great, but not as good as before. Next year they put out
second LP, titled "Partibrejkers" again. Also their third album is self-titled
as well, which causes a lot of confusion.
As I am coming to an end of a story, or a saga, as
you may say, I have to admit I never wrote review as long as this one ever
(this was before I wrote Cul de Sac one-P.). The fact is that I haven't heard
Partibrejkers' first LP for at least 5 years (I don't even have it on a tape
at the time of writing this). Still, I know it by numbers. I know every detail
on the cover, all the lyrics and riffs, I know every note by heart. Maybe
"Partibrejkers" isn't the best album ever, but it is the one that affected my
life as no record before or after.
And a bit of a trivia
for all of you who think I went too seriously about everything: in early 1992
during FEST (the annual international film festival in Belgrade) Partibrejkers
were joined live on stage by Johnny Depp on guitar and Jim Jarmush on back-up
vocals. I saw the whole event on telly and am still trying to obtain the video
of it. Also, Partibrejkers haven't only influenced the Yugo bands - Antiseen
have blatantly ripped of "Tajna Tatina Devojka" and re-titled it into "Wife
Beater", while L7's "Shit List" is nearly a note-by-note copy of "Ulicni
Hodac" ("Street Walker").