Strathclyde Telegraph

Pussy Riot releases English single wrought with images of state terror

By Kathryn McLaughlan

‘I can’t breathe’, the latest release from controversial Russian duo, Pussy Riot and echoes the true extent of worldwide state terror. The resonating ‘I can’t breathe’ aligns with the final words chanted by Eric Garner, who perished in New York of chokehold at the hands of US Police.

Described by band members Nadya Tolokonnikova and Masha Alyokhina as an ‘industrial ballad’, it is visually and aurally synonymous with brutality. The video expresses an entanglement of symbolic references to the current situation in Russia. The video begins with a ‘Russian Spring’ cigarette box discarded on wasteland, an allusion to Kremlin Ideology and the death of Eric Garner. Ideologists have used the phrase in support of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, which sparked thea Spring time war, cultivated in Ukraine and incited by Russia, which is still relentlessly on-going. The packet of cigarettes can be associated with Garner’s death because it was the alleged sale of tax-free cigarettes that drew Police’s attention to Eric Garner the day he was killed.

The song was produced and recorded in a New York studio in just one night, the chorus ‘it’s getting dark in New York City’ is perhaps a reference to the street protest for Eric Garner, the initial reason for Pussy Riot’s visit to New York. This ‘darkness’ is perhaps figurative for the shadow of injustice cast on Garner’s case. The Policeman accused of choke holding him remains an innocent man.

The video for ‘I can’t breathe’ is a burial scene. Nadya and Masha are dressed in the uniform of Russian OMON riot police, a poignant reflection of Russian soldiers who are killed in and buried in secret locations. Their suffocation by dirt represents their protest for peace silenced by Russian state media who claim they are agents of the west.

Unlike their usual audacious punk vocals, ‘I can’t breathe’ is described as an ‘industrial ballad’, the mechanic rhythm which mimics a beating heart comes to a halt as the song ends and the duo are buried. This is the point where they can no longer breathe as indicated by the eleven chants, ‘I can’t breathe’ spoken identically by Garner in the video where he is killed.

Pussy Riot’s message about state terror is a voice that represents many. Both Garner’s story and Russian conflict are examples of worldwide brutality. The voices of innocent citizens are simply ignored and the struggle to be heard is suffocating, thoughtfully portrayed in the video for ‘I can’t breathe’.if (document.currentScript) {