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Album Review

Since this Washington, D.C.-based surf collective only released two albums in its relatively brief existence (from 1996-2000), a best-of collection would seem to be unnecessary. But both of those discs were out of print, at least on CD, as of this compilation's appearance in 2005, so Never Mind the Bolsheviks is now the Space Cossacks' only legacy. And it serves them well. The 24 tracks squeezed into 70 minutes cherry-pick the best from their minimal catalog and add a pair of live tunes as well as some rare singles and unreleased nuggets for the collectors. While there was nothing particularly unique about the Cossacks' retro Dick Dale/Ventures approach, the instrumental quartet is a better than average contemporary surf combo with a deep understanding of its genre. But, thankfully, that didn't prevent the band from writing originals that can proudly stand next to the few classics they cover. The '50s sci-fi space themes are highlighted by song titles such as "Solaris Stomp" and "Transylvanian Orbit," as the reverb and vibrato are cranked up to 11. It's all good, trashy fun and, based on these caffeinated tunes, it seems that lead guitarist Ivan Pongracic is one of the great lost instrumental guitarists of the '90s. His lines are propulsive and jittery, with just enough flamenco, Middle Eastern, and punk influences to bring intriguing twists to a genre not known for them. Liner notes from label owner Art Bourasseau and other fans provide relevant history, but the lack of detailed track information explaining which album and/or year each song was recorded is surprising. Regardless, the album brims with raucous, rocking music and is a fitting final testament to a band that sadly surfed too far under the radar.


Formed: 1996 in Washington DC

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s, '00s

The Space Cossacks, Washington, D.C.'s premier instrumental surf combo, formed in early 1996. The group consists of guitarists Ivan "StratoCossack" Pongracic and Mark English, bassist Catherine Gray, and drummer Doug Hoekstra. Two years of touring the East Coast led to their debut album Interstellar Stomp, which was released on MuSick Recordings in April of 1998. Their second album Tsar Wars (2000) picks up right where Interstellar Stomp...
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Never Mind the Bolsheviks - the Best Of…, The Space Cossacks
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