The Psychic Soviet  and Other Works
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The Psychic Soviet and Other Works

4.19 of 5 stars 4.19  ·  rating details  ·  216 ratings  ·  39 reviews

An anthology of both new and previously published essays and articles from one of the mainstays of the Washington, DC underground rock-and-roll scene, The Psychic Soviet is the most complete collection of writings by Ian Svenonius. The selections are written in a scholarly yet engaging style, filled with parody and biting humor that subvert capitalist culture, and cover s

Paperback, 270 pages
Published July 24th 2006 by Drag City
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Like Ian Svenonius' now-disbanded rock outfit the Make-Up, there are things to take seriously about The Psychic Soviet and things to disregard. Just as the Make-Up half-ironically fused gospel and punk with liberation theology, the essays of The Psychic Soviet meld Marxist theory with pop culture, and the results are sometimes interesting and sometimes silly. Svenonis displays a formidable intelligence in using historical materialism to critique the eugenic subtext of Bram Stoker's Dracula, draw...more
This is more than a book. It is more like a pocket-sized invitation to an alternate psycho-geo-musico-cultural realm of Mr. Svenonious's creation. It includes a well-written and ironically stereotypical political tract, a series of essays explaining stylistic and cultural changes in the world of popular music (for example, explaining how Greenspans economics led to the rise of electronic music -- nobody can afford a garage anymore, so real drums are out of the question), and a well-thought-out s...more
OutSTANDING. Svenonius perfectly treads the line between schizo steve ranting on the street corner and overfunded "publish or perish" academician in this engrossing, insane, but relevatory treatise. This is the type of stuff that you used to get in The Baffler but dipped in DMT - the Beatles and Rolling Stones as opposing socialist ideologies, the death of the soviet union and its psychic fallout on the american populace, popularity of drinks as literal drinking of imperialist conquests' lifeblo...more
Mar 27, 2007 Dana rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Wonderers, Wanderers, Ponderers, Philosophers...
Shelves: favorites
If you've ever had the pleasure of verbal engagement with Ian Svenonius, you'd soon realize that this former singer of Nation of Ulysses, the Make Up and current-sometimes singer of Weird War has a different train of thought than the average man. If you've never had the pleasure of verbal engagement with Ian Svenonius, do read The Psychic Soviet or visit for videos of Ian's Vice TV series, Soft Focus (and hear me laughing like an idiot in the background of the Ian MacKaye/Henry R...more
surprisingly good little book. i was never a big fan of Make-Up, i liked what i heard of their records but they never thrilled me enough to make me scene cream myself. As a result, never really thought to pick up this book though i had heard of it from a few people. Finally, trapped in the netherlands with only books in dutch i was handed this and zipped right through it. Lots of funny, insightful, off kilter essays that read like they were written for some freak out acid bath yippie journal in...more
In this little pink book, Weird War front-man Ian Svenonius deconstructs pop culture with a hammer and sickle, with an eye for critical theory like a Gen-X Jean Baudrillard or punk rock Slavoj Zizek. Svenonius’ barbed humor rips open the hidden underbelly of innocuous entertainment, to reveal its sinister nature.

“Mordor Dearest” details the woman-hating homoeroticism of the Lord of the Rings films, while “The Bloody Latte” examines the historical relationships of imperial powers and their soft d...more
Quincy Tran
This book is heavy with the burden of history and yet weighs less than a pound. You keep expecting the punchline of a joke, but those kind of one-liners rarely happen. The ironic style sits perched on the shoulder like a hooded eagle ready to soar, but it never does. Instead Svenonous shows a suprising competence for adapting historical material (eg. the fall of the Soviet Union, the science of eugenics) to make a broader policital point. His essays read like a barrage on the West's most revered...more
Diane Ramirez
I hated reading this book. Having had no context as to who Ian Svenonius is, I kept wondering -- idiot(ic) savant or boorish crank? Plodding my way through, while I found many of his (well-informed) ideas interesting, I decided that it just didn't matter to me. Svenonius (seems to?) mistakenly believe that his clever mapping of political, social, and artistic trends trumps complexities far beyond the scope of this work. I know that he intends for his readers to be riled up by his words; for that...more
Fan bloody tastic. I took an especially long time reading this little sucker because it was so terribly entertaining. His theses are obscure yet ring true; in one essay he claims that the lord of the rings is a call to all boys to remain latent in adolescence, never to leave the comforts of platonic homosexuality, and another claims that the conquering peoples feel compelled to drink the beverage of choice of the conquered, as if drinking the actual blood of the vanquished. Except that he says i...more
The myth of Dylan going electric and particularly the lamo reaction by the folk community was generated by the recording industry as a response to the threat that folk music presented to it. Right now we could have so much more live music in noncommercial settings had it not been for the triumph of electric music over shared acoustic music. But as it is, the tools belong in the hands of the few instead of the many, and I have to go to strip clubs to listen to music. Svenonius also saw through al...more
Imagine if a smarty-pants college sophomore tackled a paper for Modern Thought class by upending a basket of particularly diabolical kittens in a yarn shop. Besides being smart and pantsy, the author has been a credible participant in the art/culture/music history he's hired the kittens to cliff-note, which may be why he's actually right about whatever of it isn't bang out insane or snort-stuff-out-your-nose funny, and also most of what is.

Plus who doesn't love a little pink book. I still can't...more
Matthew DeCostanza
Svenonius' essays, while sometimes dubious (The Rolling Stones support Maoist agrarian development in China? Hardcore punk is an outgrowth of repressed homosexual barracks/locker room culture? I never would have known!) are consistently interesting and provide engaging "food for thought" for those done with their faux-occult, Illuminati-theorist phase, but not quite ready to move on to Philip K. Dick yet.
Daniel Brockman
Total and complete genius. I'm sure that some would put this book aside as sheer folly and/or nonsense, but I see it as one of the freshest and most original takes on the place of pop music, as a phenomenon, in our Western society ever written. Many books are created out of a eureka moment, but "The Psychic Soviet" could only be the culmination of many many such moments stretched out over a lifetime.
I'm tired of debating whether or not Ian is crazy, a genius, or a crazy genius. He's probably all of those, and brilliant to boot. It kind of sucks when I listen to Make-Up now and it sounds a little dated, but these essays bring a totally fresh and unique perspective to topics as ubiquitous and analyzed to death as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. "A Warning to Swedish Girls" is an instant classic.
Greg Diehl
When read as satire it doesn't get much better than this. This is a book I never would have selected on my own - great recommendation. I laughed out loud several times on the Route 40 bus and even managed to draw a few skeptical looks (usually - someone needs to wet themselves or scream "bomb" to stand out . . . ). Quick read and worthy of a little effort.
Wonderful pop culture criticism that emulates academic and revolutionary writing with a sense of humor and sass. The ideas are absolutely audacious but are argued in such an elegant and witty way that they make sense. If you are a fan of Svenonius' work in Nation of Ulysses, this is worth picking up, as he is in top form.
Jan 10, 2008 Lou rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Lou by: Mary Lewandowski
Shelves: non-fiction
nice, crisp manifesto-y tone works for this, and entertaining theories of the gay (and woman-hating) subtext of lord of the rings, the idea that the beatles are the only thing that made britain relavant in the last 50 yrs, and a deconstruction of the romantic notion of the artist.
David Hickox
This is one of the top 5 books I have ever read. An absurdist analysis of art, music, and politics that toes the line between insight and insanity. As soon as you discount its maniacal ramblings, you realize they've just blown your mind. Intensely recommended.
I LOVED this book. Genius, Hilarious, Intelligent, Interesting!!!!
It probably doesn't help, that's how I would describe the author.
I need to buy a copy for myself to have around at all times.
Dry witted and laugh out loud thesis from the U.S. & U.S.S.R. dynamic being a Jungian archetype of mother and father to the ever appropriate Rolling Stones vs. The Beatles.
Allan Hough
i think it's making of how in school you get all socialist and have to write lots of papers. i like how he really really commits. not as good as weird war though.
Svenonius is alternately mad and brilliant in this tiny pink book of cultural criticism.
Without Christ's supposed crucifixion, there would have been no martyrdom, and no burgeoning Christian movement to eventually unify Europe after spurring the disintegration of the Roman Empire. The Jews couldn't do it as they weren't an evangelical sect, and Zoroastrianism was too hard to pronounce.

While the two forms ["electro-clash" and semi-acoustic/psychedelic "folk" revival] are distinct and even aesthetically in opposition to the other, their common aversion to acoustic drums reveals their...more
This explains everything
Svenonius' Freudian deconstruction of Lord of the Rings is one of the more hilarious things I've ever read.

"This sword/phallus broke when it hit the ring/vagina though it sliced off the finger that wore it. Though the penis of the father is easily lopped off, the mother and her vagina are more formidable."

It's endless entertainment with some salient points and startling connections that are so outrageous, I hope to god they're true.
Radical musical politics, man.
Ryan Hill
Great book by my friend Ian. Academic tomfoolery and crack-pot historical connections that make sense and provoke a laugh at the same time. Super enjoyable compendium of essays about the Cold War, rock music and other bits of interest.
Essays on pop music and communist revolution. So over-the-top and on-target that I can't be sure if it's satire or not.
Jose Palafox
This is hilarious.

Ian's recent project. Check it out.

tessa maria lalonde
Man, the essay about the Socialist Beatles vs. the Maoist Stones totally rocked my world...
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Ian Svenonius is an American musician, notable as the singer and mouthpiece of various Washington, D.C.-based music groups including Nation of Ulysses, The Make-Up, and Weird War. With his projects, Svenonius has released more than 15 full-length albums and more than 20 singles, EPs, and splits. Svenonius is also a published author and an online talk show host.

Svenonius' first band, Nation of Ulys...more
More about Ian F. Svenonius...
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