The GAR return: new EP, new sound & old friends
I love The GAR. Let me just get that out there before I even start. I love them so much my entire Oct holiday is planned around leaving the day after their EP launch. BD and I were hoping to get a review up before the show, but due to both of us being crazy busy last week, we managed to listen to it, but not find the time to collect our thoughts and put them together in a review. So this is going to be a combined show/EP review, written in the hours between the show ending and me jumping on a plane for 2+ weeks offline in the west of China.
Mr Graceless were on opening duties at Yugong Yishan last night. A band I first saw a couple of years ago as 3 young shy indie kids performing what seemed like covers of their favourite brit-rock bands. How far they’ve come in that time, if you haven’t heard their album, The Tree Ever Green, you should definitely give it a listen. The 3 guys I saw on stage last night seemed so much more mature and confident. Yes, I can still hear a little Blur influence in their songs, but they’ve worked hard to make their sound their own.
The GAR opened their set with two new tracks 爱，终将把青春遗漏 Love will lost your love and 后撤 Train, which were posted on Maybe Mar’s soundcloud a couple of weeks ago, so I’d heard them before listening to the EP in full. They’re catchy songs, I’ve found myself singing along with both. They remind me of songs the last album and seem like a normal progression on from that with a few small changes like cleaner guitar and vocals. Train also has a really nice bass line thanks to bassist Bo Xuan. I think out of the 5 song on the EP these two are probably going to be most popular with their fans.
Next came 6 songs from the first album, songs the audience knew and loved, before another new one, 空洞 Black Hole which is probably my favourite on the EP. It’s got a the perfect combination of awesome bass line, screaming psychadelic guitar riffs and strong drum beat working together to build up the intensity, but I feel just stops short just before it really gets to where it should. Again the changes in Zhan Pan’s singing style stand out on this track, not quite as good live as on the EP, but still noticeably stronger than before. Another new song 夜尽头 Time Cue came next, I really like the guitar and intense (BD would probably say whiney) vocals on this track. Listening to the EP version I kept wanting to skip the last 45 seconds because the tempo change just didn’t feel right to me, but after hearing it live I like it a lot more.
Next the song everyone was waiting for 圈 Circle, driving the until then quite mellow crowd wild as it always does. A few more old songs, and then 六月 June the song that closes to the EP, a nice longish instrumental track that really shows of just how great a drummer Wang Xu is. I’m a sucker for instrumental tracks and I wish they’d included more like this on the EP. Finally 两个妈妈 Two Mothers and the show is over.
Or so we think … until we notice someone familiar standing to the side in the shadows and original bassist Wen Jie walks on stage, harmonica in hand to join his bandmates, bringing smiles and even tears of happiness to the eyes of more than a few people around me.
Overall 灯火 Lights definitely feels calmer and more introspective than the first album. Much has been said about Zhan Pan’s vocals, he’s obviously been working hard on this since the last album, he’s sounding great on the EP, although it’s hard to replicate this live, even with my buddy Lee, one of the best sound guys in the city manning the Yugong sound desk. I really like the new direction they’re heading with their sound, but at just 5 songs and a short intro, the EP just leaves me wanting more from them.