More tunes! Yup, we are leaving Beijing once again to hit up the rest of China to see what’s cracking musically including the godfathers of punk themselves, Wuhan-based SMZB, as well as the newest EP from Lanzhou folk heroes Low Wormwood. Also in store, the debut of the all female Chengdu dance punk outfit The Hormones and shoegaze outfit The White Tulips. Get at it.
Wuhan Celtic punks veterans SMZB return with their latest album, the first in three years, entitled A Letter From China – and would you lot at the lovely cover art (Editor\’s Note: Just realized after posting this that the band\’s logo is in fact meant to look like a big ol\’ dick). Yes, it’s the 25th Anniversary of the CCP’s infamous crackdown in case you had forgotten. And to ‘celebrate’ the band has put together a raging lineup of songs that looks at the crimes of society – from celebrity lifestyle, turning a blind eye, fleeing governments officials, and using violence as a means to an end. It’s all pretty standard stuff by now for China (particularly farting in elevators…come on now folks!). But SMZB present it all with such genuine, disheartened concern that it’s hard to not get wrapped up in the anthems. ‘Smash His Statue’ is a hell of a scorcher – I can only imagine the repercussions of following through on a song like that. However, it\’s the opener “A Song for Chen Huaimen” – where Wu Wei compares himself to Chinese fighter pilot who fought against the Japanese, that hits deepest. In Wu Wei’s eyes he’s still fighting that battle, albeit against a different enemy. It’s endearing to see the flame of punk alive and well in Wuhan. Give A Letter From China a listen over here.
Chengdu outfit The Hormones look to tap into the female-led arena of dance punk on their EP Elephant, and for the most part they pull it off. It certainly helps that the band is entirely made up of women, fresh into adulthood, which adds a certain innocence and vulnerability to the dark wave that creeps into their music. And having backing vocals that isn’t some dude crooning – always a plus in my book. And am really digging the production which never veers too far electro pop territory. It’s a thin line at this point but The Hormones are clearly not posers and look as if they have actual chops. The band is on a fifteen city tour at the moment, two stops which include Beijing – this Thursday at Temple, and Friday at XP. Give it a listen here and see if they warrant a night out on the town.
Last week we discovered Islet out of Xiamen and now we have another promising band emerging from the southern coastal town – The White Tulips. The shoegaze noise pop outfit put out their debut EP, Wrapped in the Waves and for you shoegaze junkies missing that bit of Americana 90s lo-fi jangle, you’re gonna wanna take a sit and pop on some headphones. Vocally, they are not quite there yet – needs just a iota more muscle to match the huge soundwalls created throughout the six track album. So while on sounds like ‘White Clouds’ it sounds perfect, on others like ‘Glass Mirror’ it’s simply lacking. But it comes back to the beautifully loud and dense walls of sound right dip in and out like a dream. There’s serious talent here and I would love to get these cats up here at some point. Check it out on their bandcamp.
The Lanzhou folk rock outfit, Low Wormwood, are on of the genre’s biggest draws at the moment – between the band’s touching respective lyrically view on life in China and their indisputable musical chops on stage – they have earned quite the following. Their latest EP, Flowers and Trees, isn’t meant to set the world ablaze, but it’s a bittersweet detour for the band. Four acoustics tunes that move at the speed of molasses and sound almost identical. It’s pleasant enough, but frankly I’m not a fan of the ghostly monotone folk music which my girlfriend is now telling me is ‘dead people music’. Right on. Let’s hope Low Wormwood get back to basics and provide us some real tunes. Give it a whirl.