‘Alex in Russialand’ is amazing but alarming

‘Alex in Russialand’ is amazing but alarming


As Russian troops mass on the border with Ukraine and rumors of war rattle the planet, Alex Carlin has a dream. It consists of scorching Russian babes, oceans of alcoholic beverages, and an unlimited rock ‘n’ roll bacchanal that traverses the extensive nation’s 10 time zones by rail. He’s obtained yet another dream way too, about preserving the planet from global warming by bringing together Russian and American musicians for a “We Are the World”-design singalong. These two visions converge in the 40-minute award-winning documentary Alex In Russialand, which screens Saturday night at the Dresher Ensemble Studio in West Oakland, adopted by Carlin’s live solo efficiency.

The Berkeley-reared musician, who co-founded the electrical power pop band The Rubinoos as a teenager and joined the seminal punk outfit Psychotic Pineapple in 1976, has put in the past two many years undertaking all over Europe. He established his initially foundation of operations squatting in Amsterdam, then manufactured deep inroads in Jap Europe when residing in Krakow from 2001-10. But in the a long time prior to the pandemic Carlin lived a nomadic lifestyle on the point out-owned Russian Railways (RZD), a life-style he embraced with these types of gusto he wrote one particular of his catchiest tunes to celebrate the support.

Carlin expended so substantially time in transit “there was no cause to hire any where,” he claimed. “For six or seven a long time I was doing continuous touring from Siberia to the Black Sea and all through [the] northeast. I stroll into the coach and I get a terrific sensation. It is the only time I get to slumber at all. I’m executing too considerably stuff and partying.”

Completely ready to make up a new tune on the place, he frequently finishes up serenading new acquaintances, who are as likely to search alarmed or skeptical as delighted. Courtesy: Alex Carlin

His maiden voyage as a director and editor, Alex In Russialand follows the escapades of the Alex Carlin Band with longtime drummer Denis Matuizo and the far more current bassist Andrey Samoylov (the fate of several of Carlin’s preceding eight bassists calls to brain This Is Spinal Tap, besides that his fallen comrades fell victim to Russian hazards). Driven by his hi-octane voiceover, the documentary follows him from different festivals and motorbike rallies as gigs bleed into booze-soaked afterparties. By way of it all, he maintains his superior cheer and indefatigable spirit, flattering his Russian audiences, entertaining them with his three-chord anthems, and stumping for better U.S./Russian relations.

The fact that Carlin is in his 60s tends to make the film each incredible and alarming. Less than 10 minutes into Alex In Russialand my liver started out to throb in sympathy with his. The Energizer Bunny would blow a circuit making an attempt to manage his pace. The person retains the Guinness Record for longest solo live performance, a feat he reached in June 2009, rocking non-stop in Radomsko, Poland for 32 hours (starting off with the overall Beatles songbook from memory, “which took up about the first 10 hrs,” he claimed).

The scion of a distinguished Berkeley household — his late father Jerome Carlin started the San Francisco Community Lawful Support Basis in 1966 prior to turning his focus to painting, and his mom Pleasure Carlin is an esteemed actor and director who served as the Berkeley Rep’s interim creative director in the 1980s – he will come throughout as a little something of a holy fool on his travels.

It’s a stance he adopted early on as a fifth-grader at Cragmont Elementary College in 1967 when he and Jon Rubin formed The Constipated Orange, “making exciting of what we’re listening to in San Francisco,” he explained. “We’re Berkeley brats, building sarcastic remarks about psychedelics. There was The Electrical Prunes and Moby Grape, so we identified as ourselves The Constipated Orange.”

The documentary follows Carlin from numerous festivals and bike rallies as gigs bleed into booze-soaked afterparties. Courtesy: Alex Carlin

While devoting himself to new music, he pursued his significantly-flung interests living in New York City in the mid-1970s, researching Russian all through a year at Columbia and movie and Russian lit at NYU (he credits his preceding attendance at Pacific Movie Archives screenings with honing his eye for cinema). Signing up for Psychotic Pineapple introduced him back again to the Bay Area, and after the team pale Carlin finished up earning a diploma in Russian literature from Cal in 1984.

His passion for Russian lifestyle and men and women is obvious during the documentary but he appears to be similarly sincere about his passion for the absence of a previous call at Russian bars. Whether he’s consuming or strolling close to a town, Carlin is never ever without having his guitar (“I really feel kind of naked with no it,” he mentioned). All set to make up a new tune on the location, he typically ends up serenading new acquaintances, who are as likely to seem alarmed or skeptical as delighted.

But he also encounters strangers who figure out him from social media or who’ve observed him execute (he was highlighted at Woodstock 2019, which took area in Russia right after the 50th anniversary U.S. pageant imploded). The truth that the digital camera brazenly ogles women’s cleavage and black-leather-clad backsides can give the film an unreconstructed 1980s MTV vibe.


The movie captures the instant when Carlin connects with a renowned Russian rocker who’s settled in Los Angeles, the relationship he requirements to start function on assembling his global coalition to conduct his anthem “Climate Restoration.” His serious aspect doesn’t surface a great deal in Alex In Russialand, but he’s been covering U.N. Climate conferences about the environment blogging for the Heart for Media and Democracy.

“In Glasgow I actually sang the local climate tune at an official U.N. event,” he said. “They say it is the initial time rock ‘n’ roll has at any time been accomplished at an formal U.N. event.”

He introduces his local weather anthem in the movie, accompanied by a bevy of writhing go-go girls (supplied by the promoter of Woodstock 2019). Given the existing tensions and the, shall we say, prickly relations among Russia and the West in the course of Carlin’s rail residency, it is conspicuous that the name Putin in no way comes up. He does work in a wonderful couplet rhyming Mikhail Gorbachev with beef stroganoff. Will his Falstaffian persona get in the way of his environmental activism? Alex In Russialand doesn’t definitely present an answer, but it’s rather a trip.

Courtesy: Alex Carlin

A Berkeley resident due to the fact 1996, Los Angeles native Andrew Gilbert is a longtime arts and lifestyle reporter who has contributed to Berkeleyside because 2011.


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