Home > Bust > Various Artists – Look Directly Into the Sun: China Pop 2007

Various Artists – Look Directly Into the Sun: China Pop 2007

Invisible China, 2007

I know nothing about Chinese music, popular or underground.  Therefore, seeing an affordably priced compilation that declares it represents China Pop in 2007 easily captured my attention.  I have heard a lot of Japanese and Korean pop, so I thought that I might have to wade through quite a few sugary numbers.  With bands like Queen Sea Big Shark and Voodoo Kung Fu I felt I could survive a few cute dance numbers.

Apparently this compilation was put together by a fellow named Martin Atkins, who traveled out to China some years back and wanted to put together a collection that represented the Chinese underground scene.  Great concept!  He actually is a member of China Dub Soundsystem (on this disc with so-so flare) and created a film entitled “Sixteen Days in China” about his Beijing trip and the bands he ran into.  Whatever one thinks about this compilation, I bet that film would be fascinating to watch.

So, on with the music.  I know that compilations are a real crapshoot when it comes to hearing tracks that are interesting enough to spin again.  Unfortunately, this album required some serious effort to find much of anything that was agreeable with the stomach.  The compilation starts off with two serious clunkers, the first being Snapline’s “Close Your Cold Eyes” that has a vocalist that sounds a lot like a really bored Damon Albarn in an elecro noise effort.  Then China MC Brother’s “JaiJung” rap rock gave me the Limp Bizkit chills.  Like I said, awful start.

Thankfully, a pure pop punk number by Caffe-In saves the disc from a preliminary chuck out the window.  The female vocalist squeaks a little bit as the power chords speed through “Mario and Peaches”, which would be great to have the lyrics to for this Nintendo enthusiast.  After digging up a little bit more about them, it turns out the group is actually made up of Japanese folks.  Other good tunes on the album are an excellently blended guitar instrumental by White and a live ska-like track by Rococo.  “Panda” by Carsick Cars is also a solid straightforward rock song that reminds me of that 90s indie sound, but the vocalist is dull.

Alright, now for the outright junk!  Aside from those first two songs, Subs pulls a Linkin Park and tries to sound very soft and then blow up in your face with shouting.  However, at four plus minutes the song is tedious to listen through with its disjointed guitar and repetition of “Shut up, shut up, shut up” and top volume.  The Scoff’s “Nasty” probably is the equivalent of an American grrl band, so I guess one can’t ding too much on a punk song whose vocals that are intentionally ragged.  Unless, of course, it’s a guy singing.  HoneyGun stole a riff from Alice in Chains’ “Man in a Box” and Voodoo Kung Fu is just … out there.  I guess they are an artsy metal screamo band, which is fascinating to listen to once given the country of origin I guess.

Those looking for more about the music on this compilation might find something on the record label website:  Invisible China.  I also managed to find the Chinese MySpace page for Caffe-In if you want to listen to what pop punk out of China sounds like.

I feel sort of bad labeling this collection as a Bust, for I do like Atkin’s idea of promoting music we might not otherwise hear.  Unfortunately, aside from a few good songs from Caffe-In and Rococo, I couldn’t recommend this compilation to anyone unless they just want to hear what Chinese underground music sounds like for the experience.  According to these eighteen bands, it simply sounds similar to American underground music.  Glad to hear that bands are trying to make it over there in the East, but there aren’t many on this collection that makes me desperate to buy a plane ticket to go see what I’m missing.  I suppose this hurts my diplomacy score, eh?

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