(2009 Touch and Gogo!)
If amplifying (literally) the Borat schtick sounds like a lot of good, wacky fun, it is. But Optometri, like the Gomers and Theramones (whose members make up this band), is able to underscore their wackiness with solid musicianship. So while you’re still laughing at Yuri Mishkin’s (Bob Jacobson’s) lyrics in the verse you can gasp at Dmitri Shostakovich’s (Steve Burke’s) unbridled guitar solo in the middle eight.
The premise, which is now fairly common knowledge amongst Madison music fans, is that Optometri was a potent Russian musical force in the 80′s who were lying dormant in Madison “waiting for history to catch up to their ahead-of-its-time potency of gathered storm force.” Their music of love and hope is intended to improve your outlook and, indeed, nothing heals the wounds that mayhem wields like the soothing balm of laughter; especially when it simultaneously rocks.
Shostakovich wastes no time in raiding his quiver of guitar licks as the lead-off track “Notes From the Underground” reveals. The classic-rock-meets-Devo-meets-wedding-band method act is right on target throughout the rest of the album with Mishkin providing exposition before several of the tracks. Most notably, his intros to “Anna” (an homage to Yuri’s torrid love affair with tennis star Anna Kournikova) and “Grusha, Grusha, Grusha” (the tale of a lover who suffers an industrial accident and no longer has limbs or skin) are especially hilarious.
“Everybody Take Some Drugs” is the album’s most comic track with its just-say-yes attitude and its Moscow-by-way-of-Mexico vibe. Shostakovich turns in a ridiculous echo-drenched guitar solo on this one. Another Spanish-flavored tune is “Pantelones Negros” which tells the tale of yet another love affair with a woman whose language Mishkin can’t understand.
Though I haven’t had the pleasure, I’m betting this band is a whole lotta fun live. You’ve gotta love these guys (and the Gomers and the Theramones) ’cause when they’re gone there will be no substitute. And remember, love is not a potato; you can’t just throw it away.