14 Songs, 1 Hour, 2 Minutes


About Psí vojáci

The Czech rock group Psí Vojáci is one of the major acts that started in the underground during the Communist regime and became successful after its fall in 1989. The group is dominated by songwriter, singer, and pianist Filip Topol, a charismatic character who shares similarities with English singer Peter Hammill, both in his writing of literate yet powerful art songs, and in his stage delivery. Drummer David Skála and bassist Jan Hazuka formed the core of the group from its beginnings up to the early ‘90s, when the latter left and was replaced by Ludek Horky. Guitarists and saxophonists came and went.

The name Psí Vojáci means "Dog Soldiers." Two explanations, both of a literary nature, circulate about its origins. Some say it comes from the title of Robert Stone's 1974 novel. Others attribute it to the name of a Cheyenne tribe in Thomas Berger's book Little Big Men. In any case, there is a connection to Native American history, a favorite source of inspiration for the singer. Topol, born 1965, made his first professional appearance at a concert by the Plastic People of the Universe in 1978. Soon after, he formed Psí Vojáci with schoolmates Skála and Hazuka. Big brother Jáchym Topol, who would become an important Czech poet, fueled the group with lyrics. They gave their first performance at the ninth Prague Jazz Days the following year. At first, the group's sound had something of a punk attitude, even though the repertoire consisted of complex pieces steeped in the romantic music of the latter half of 18th century. Its name and its harsh lyrics against the State (sung with conviction by a 14-year-old) soon earned the group an interdiction to perform.

For the next few years, Psí Vojáci laid low, recording three albums (Psí a Vojáci, Baroko v Cechách, Studio 1983-85, all reissued in 2000) that circulated as illegal cassettes. In 1986, the group was allowed to break out of the private underground parties circuit and perform publicly under the name Psí Vojáci Osobne, building a strong cult following in Prague. By then, though, Jáchym had joined the group Narodní Trída, so Filip began to write his own lyrics. Following the Velvet Revolution of 1989, the group began to release albums at a quick pace, starting with the EP P.V.O. (Panton, 1989) and the full-length Nalej Cistého Vína (Globus, 1991). In 1993, Filip Topol starred in Zdenek Tyce's film Ziletky. A year later, he reunited with his brother to write Sestra, and in 1995, he released his first solo album, Sakramilácku. In 1996 the group re-recorded its classic songs for Národ Psích Vojáku. After the release of the disheartened Horící Holubi that same year, the singer had to take a break, his health problems overtaking him. Years of alcohol abuse led him to the operation table, putting the band on hiatus. Back to a trio version, Topol, Skála, and Horky came back in 1999 with the album Mysi v Poli a Jiné Príbehy, and have since found some international acclaim, performing in Belgium, France, and the US. ~ François Couture