[HOT TRACK]We utterly don't know why, but he's quite a kick

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[HOT TRACK]We utterly don't know why, but he's quite a kick

One of the biggest movies in Korea at the moment is "Haejeok, Disco Wang Doida" (Bet on My Disco), a nostalgic comedy about some smalltown friends trying to win a disco competition some 20 years ago. As in any cinematic remembrance of things past, music plays a key role in setting the mood.

"Bet on My Disco" has, naturally enough, Western disco music, but it also taps into the Korean music of the day, including that odd Casio-organ abomination called ppongjjak, or trot music.

But oddly enough, the sound track to the film left off the best ppongjjak songs, the ones by Bolppalgan.

Bolppalgan (literally "red cheeks") is one of the oddest acts around on the peninsula. He's not some old crooner from the ancient past, with shellacked hair and a wardrobe Liberace would envy. He's a young man in his early 30s whose real name is Seo Jun-ho.

Seo was part of the Hongik University area's underground music scene for years, playing with a number of bands. But in 1998 he became Bolppalgan, combining the styles of the ppongjjak king Lee Bak-sa and the techno DJ Dalparan. The result is a warped reinterpretation of the trot genre. Call it postmodern, call it deconstruction, call it yeopgi (bizarre) -- whatever, it is equal parts inspired and sick.

"Yamae" is Bolppalgan's second album, and his first for the label I.M. Station. The lyrics are, as always, full of fun slang terms, old and new. But even for people who cannot understand Korean, the album is full of fun and serious strangeness.

The first track is perhaps the best example. "Domuji" (Utterly) is to the tune of the old Korean song "Moon Over Baekdu Mountain," but to a sample from the early-'90s dance band Dee-lite. On top of it all, Bolppalgan shrieks the lyrics like a madman.

I utterly don't know why you get so annoyed.

I utterly don't know why you are so fickle.

Other tracks sample Sly and the Family Stone and the Pizzicato Five.

But most of the time, Bolppalgan does not sample at all. It's just him on that cheesy, karaoke-style organ. Sometimes he warbles like a drunk middle-aged man at a room salon, other times he's more aloof. But he's always fun. Odd, but fun.

by Mark Russell

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