something is brewing down south folks… I’m not sure what it is but there’s definitely some quality coming out of Shanghai that we don’t get to see in Beijing. Don’t get me wrong, we have “some” quality up here but when you look at the quantity, the ratio is pretty dismal. Shanghai is not blessed with as many live music venues and it’s definitely harder to get noticed there so maybe that creates a sort of natural selection that we could use up here.
One of the latest examples of this trend comes in under the name: “Friend or Foe”. My interests in this record was mostly from the conceptual and graphical perspective. I loved the artwork… then I heard the damn thing. How does it stack up?
BD on My Claw is Never Limp
I love me a catchy album or song name and this one does not disappoint. I don’t really know the band members but that’s already a good insight into their personality.. having now read a few interviews with them, I like what i see. But what about the music man… the music?
The opening number, Terrorized, sets the tone right away! power chords, fast riffs, sharp vocals that keep me tapping my feet and wanting to jump up and down. That’s just the start! “Friend or Foe” is an interesting track: subtle, understated but in your face at the same time. It benefits a lot from a different production and interesting mixing! I love the discreet echos on there. I read a lot about the track “double down” but it failed to impress… threading the same musical waters as “friend or Foe”.. what it does have though is an interesting perspective on live as far as lyrics go. I’ve seen them soaking it up Gin Tonics in bars all around Beijing. “Snorting Clorox” is the musical equivalent of primal scream therapy: let it out baby. and then it goes downhill from there… we move to a set of slightly emo songs that lack the power and edge from the early ones which is weird. “almost too much” is a fitting closing number for a record that was almost too good.
What I can’t put my finger on is why this record reminds me so much of The Cramps, a band i haven’t heard or listened to in years.. I really don’t know why! Overall, a very solid effort that makes me wanna go check out the band live. They’re a bit hard rock, a bit punk, a bit progressive, slightly aggressive and potentially a lot of fun.
Ruby on My Claw is Never Limp
When I first moved to Beijing I thought of Shanghai as a snooty, expensive musical wasteland full of sleazy hotel jazz bars and boring DJs. Oh, how that impression has changed, especially in the last year. Ok, so I’m not moving down south in a hurry, but it’s like someone declared this ‘Shanghai Release an Album Year’ because so many great bands are dropping new recordings. A few have made the trek up to the ‘Jing to share their tunes with us, but luckily Bandcamp seems to also be a big hit amongst our southern neighbours, so you can listen most of these new albums – and in many cases download them for free online (or name your price to support the bands!)
The latest in the slew of Shanghai bands to release an album is the notorious Friend or Foe. If you haven’t heard the elaborate back story on how these guys came to earth and what they’re up to here, I won’t ruin it for you now. There’s a whole cartoon included with the album that explains this much better than I could. It’s hard to put a label on this album, I’ve heard the names ‘space rock’, ‘boner rock’ and ‘experimental wonk-grunge’ thrown around, and to tell the truth I’m not a genre person anyway, so I’ll just call it awesome. ‘Terrorized’ opens in the album hard and heavy, and sets up high expectations for me in seeing them live. ‘Lie to Me’ basically tells the story of many relationships in the expat wonderland we live in. It’s catchy and fun, but luckily so far I’ve been able to resist singing along in the office (BD would never let me live that down…) I love ‘Double Down’ with it’s slot machine intro, seedy vocals and explosive feedback in the chorus, can’t wait to hear this one live. On the first listening ‘Crazy Eye‘, ‘Burnt Out Buildings’ and ‘Almost Too Much’ didn’t really jump out, but the more I listen to the album, the more these songs grow on me and I think they’re becoming my favourites album tracks. Which came first the band name or the song name? Either way, ‘Friend or Foe’ is actually one of the low points of the album for me along with ‘I don’t wanna touch it but I need it’, but I think they’re both tracks that will work much better live.
So like I said, I’m still not convinced to move south, but I really should make it down there for a weekend sometime and I will definitely be making the trek out of my 2nd Ring comfort zone too see Friend or Foe at D22 on Saturday.
Catch Friend or Foe Saturday night at D-22 in Beijing along with Yan Tiao and He Fan’s (Carsick Cars) side-project and Deadly Cradle Death. RMB50 (door), RMB40 (students).