Omul cu Sobolani and the corpse of Romanian rock

Dan of OCS does his thing.Omul su Sobolani (The Man with Rats) is the rags-to-riches story of the Romanian music scene. The underground idols of the early 2000s are now as mainstream as rock can go in Romania. I have been listening to OCS since 1999 and have become a dedicated fan when they released their first LP, “Ne punem in cap” in 2001. I have probably seen OCS perform more than a dozen times since (only once since the summer of 2003).

It was around that time that the Romanian “alternative” scene really blossomed and people were rocking out in basements across the country. We had somehow taken alt-rock outside of the house and into clubs. There was nowhere to go but up. At the time I wrote about Romanian alt-rock for Playboy magazine and then later I did a business story on alt-rock record sales and how hard it was to survive in the dance-infested music landscape.

Rock music is scarcely promoted in Romania and no matter what people say, it’s always an afterthought to dance and electronic music. There are people who make music using guitars, drums and the more “traditional” instruments, but the recognizable ones are Bon Jovi-like pop funnel cakes that drip with the sweet syrup of break-up songs. In other words, most Romanian rock is a poor man’s version of a Top 40 band’s reunion tour.

In early 2000s I thought rock was about to become a music industry force, sharing the spotlight with Romanian hip-hop (you can’t even begin to imagine this one) and the perennial summer dance anthems. I was wrong. Rock is dying (if it’s not already dead) in Romania. Sure, people listen to foreign bands, go to concerts and some clubs still dedicate evenings to the genre–but the home grown music has stopped growing. The sounds are stale, passe, repetitive and tiring. The bands are crap and the ones that had something going have aged much worse than Green Day.

Omul cu Sobolani was accused by some fans in 2002 of selling out because their sophmore release, “Mainile sus” was preppier and lighter than “Ne punem in cap”– a record many used to channel all their frustrations into. I had no problem at the time–the band was moving, innovating, doing new things. Now, one album and a best-of record later, OCS has become rancid and the icon of any 12-year-old looking for a first joint and a first batch of suicidal thoughts. The lyrics are repetitive, pointless and the music is redundant.

It’s probably hard to remain one of the only alt-rock bands standing after dozens of them chrashed in the smoke-filled dungeons of homes such as Fire Club in Bucharest. Without much competition, there probably is less drive. I still listen to Omul cu Soboloani every now and the because they were such a large part of my life a few years ago. Call it occasional melancholy rather than fandom. And fandom is what such a pathetic scene cannot create.

Today, drum and base is the alternative to the mainstream music offering (still dominated by crappy dance) and rock has returned to being the comfort zone of 50 year old white males with horrible hair singing about who know what lost love.

Here is some Omul cu Sobolani–the first two videos were recorded by my friend Adi at the Peninsula festival last week. The other two are OCS videos.

OCS perfoming “Nu incerca asa ceva acasa” while young Romanians mosh their hearts out.

OCS perfoming “Razna” at Peninsula/Felsziget in Targu Mures.

OCS’s latest single, the dull and been-there-done-that “Nu incerca asa ceva acasa” (Don’t try something like this at home)

This is the video for “Razna,” OCS’s hit and their show closer for years now.

7 Responses to “Omul cu Sobolani and the corpse of Romanian rock”

  1. …most Romanian rock is a poor man’s version of a Top 40 band’s reunion tour.

    You nailed it!

  2. OCS is back!!!

    Man during my time there 98-00, I lived off them and Zdob. Gotta download their stuff. Any legal sites you know of. I was in RO last week and should have looked harder for their CD. I picked up two of pavel Stratan’s CD’s.

  3. 2nd comment. Did they film the Razna video at the restaurant on the roof of a hotel(?) near the University of Buch?

    I think it was called the tower.

  4. i believe Jake is speaking about the “la motoare” place.

    motoare stands for “engines” but it;s related with motorbikes and stuff.

  5. i don’t agree. If you talk about the basically mainstream rock scene, I agree. But the actual metal scene, the heavy and heavire metal scene is still alive and well, although getting well, as underground as it can get. But it’s there, and there are some good bands there if you have a taste for the genre.

  6. metal shmetal. what the hell is your problem? i would like to get an answer from the person who wrote this distinguishing blog. i am not a fan of ocs, i can’t say that i feed my frustration upon their music/lyrics but i can say that they have certainly earned my respect. i’ve been listening to all types of romanian music and originality lacks big time. that’s something i can’t say about ocs: regradless the album, song, period of creation, these guys are fucking original and always setting milestones for the other fuckers that have the nerve to call themselves musicians.
    and what’s this “OCS has become rancid and the icon of any 12-year-old looking for a first joint and a first batch of suicidal thoughts. The lyrics are repetitive, pointless and the music is redundant.”?
    do you even understand the lyrics? and what the fuck is redundant? the only thing redundant is originality and good music. the fact thet 12 year olds listen to ocs does not mean that 35 year olds don’t listen to it also and relate to it in a way that is far away from suicidal thoughts.
    as for aging as green day, may i remind you that green day released a fucking amash hit album a couple of yeara ago?
    and by the way, do you actualy sing, or you’re just a babbler?

  7. Dear Musicshop. Nowhere did I imply OCS had not earned respect. They have been in the game for almost a decade now. They deserve all the respect for sticking with it and keeping going. But a decade into their musical stint, OCS still sings about the same things in the same way. How many times can you sing about getting stoned, falling into nothingness, sitting on your head, all while dropping witty advertising references?

    As someone who has followed OCS since the beginning, I reserve the right to criticize them and challenge them by saying their music is repetitive and they cultivate the same inertia they riled against five years ago.

    That was my point with Green Day. They had become stale and then thankfully lost the master tapes to a new album, went back and blew everyone away with “American Idiot,” a suprising ass-kicker from a radio band. OCS latest, “Superparanoia,” sounds with little exception (“Locul 2”) like everything else they have done recently.

    Here’s what even more sad. With all my criticism, they are probably still among the best in Romania. And that was point of the post–it was about being king in the land of the blind. There’s no incentive to actually be better.

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