It's all ping pong my war to me
December 21, 2010 11:47 PM   Subscribe

Chinese punk you ask? No, we're not talking about heroin. This is Chinese punk.

You thought growing up under Nixon was bad. Imagine growing up under modern media's benchmark for human rights abuses. But China is a nation of people too, and they're just as snarky as you or me.

You want real counter-revolutionaries these days? Not this. Try this.

In a culture informed by maudlin pop, it's sometimes hard to stay a true punk. But you get by. Sometimes. These punk rockers have a long history which has apparently not been without some western influences though the evidence suggests earlier influences. Of course, if we really want to find someone to give the credit to, why not Wham‽

Westerners have long been fascinated. Why wouldn't they be? With punk rock as attached to activism as it is, maybe punk rock will have its day, if not in the States, then at least they will have it in China. But maybe not. After all, it's the music that matters, natch. And sometimes, it can almost be surreal.

A list, for the furiously interested.
posted by dubusadus (27 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
Awesome. I've been looking for something new to listen to.
posted by Ghidorah at 12:47 AM on December 22, 2010

Shouldn't it be called "sinopunk"?
posted by delmoi at 12:53 AM on December 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

punk always sounds better in a language i dont understand
posted by 3mendo at 1:01 AM on December 22, 2010

Tremendous post dubusadus.

.. it's sometimes hard to stay a true punk. But you get by. Sometimes.


Using myspace is completely punk.
posted by three blind mice at 1:02 AM on December 22, 2010

In this case, I think it's facebook that would qualify as "punk".
posted by iamck at 1:25 AM on December 22, 2010

Faved because you linked to Tang Shuien's essay at CSG. That lad is indeed punk as fuck.
posted by Abiezer at 1:29 AM on December 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

I saw Brain Failure when they came to the States about five or six years ago with some of their Benten label mates, mostly all-girl bands from Japan and one other Beijing band. They were quite good and to me were the highlight of the evening. The singer got the crowd to chant, "Fuck Mao", along with him after a long and mostly unintelligible rant about the current state of politics in China. Most of the people that showed up to the gig were like myself, curious about what Chinese punk would sound like and if it was at all "legitimate" which now looking back seems like such a condescending attitude to have about it, as if we could ever lay ownership to punk.

The funny thing is that I dragged my friend out to see the show with me and he was working for Fox News at the time. When we met up at the club that evening, he told me that he was rushing out of his office and the big man himself, Bill O'Reilly, asked him why he was in such a hurry to leave. He told Bill, "I'm going to see some Chinese punk bands play". Bill O'Reilly gives him a puzzled look and says "Whatever for?" My friend answer back emphatically, "Think about it. It's punk rock. From China!" And Bill goes "Oh."

So yeah, punk from China. Even Bill O'Reilly gets it.
posted by cazoo at 1:32 AM on December 22, 2010 [5 favorites]

fuck christmas.
this is fucking interesting.
oh yeah, and fuck billy "baba" o'reilly.
posted by artof.mulata at 2:16 AM on December 22, 2010

cazoo: my guess is that bill o'reilly's 'oh' was more like 'ohhhh ... head scratch cricket chirps vacant look.

but yeah. this rocks.
posted by msconduct at 4:00 AM on December 22, 2010

posted by sgt.serenity at 4:12 AM on December 22, 2010

That 'surreal' link was my favourite. I'm not even a big Cure fan, but I relate to every single person there.
posted by Rumpled at 4:42 AM on December 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

God save Mao,
He's not a sacred cow.
posted by twoleftfeet at 5:13 AM on December 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

The Angry Jerks (pictured in the photo link on the first line) are terrific. Their cover of "You Think You're A Man" is revelatory.

"One popular band sings sarcastically about its destructive need for Zhongnanhai cigarettes"

That's the Carsick Cars, who aren't really punk, more Beijindie. Here's the song, probably my favorite Chinese rock record (I mean, of the like three that I know.)

I was in a record store in Beijing, wanted to get something, but didn't know what. The proprietor didn't speak English and I don't speak Chinese. The problem was solved in the following way; the proprietor pulled a CD off the shelf, held it up to me, and said "Chinese R.E.M." He held up another and said "Chinese Dave Matthews Band." A third was "Chinese The Cure." Anyway, PK-14 is apparently "Chinese R.E.M." though the sonic resemblance isn't actually very clear to me.
posted by escabeche at 6:08 AM on December 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

That link to "Chinese Punk" goes to my pictures. Thanks for the link.

It's right saying that this is like the facebook definition of "punk" in some ways. A lot of the bands and fans dress and act the way they do because they've seen it in movies or youtube or myspace pages. The songs are about love and riding the bus and eating noodles and a lot of inconsequential things in the the majority of cases. It's safe.

There are bands that push up against censorship and social conventions and get banned as a result. There's a great band from Shanghai (name escapes me and I can't check my notes since I'm on my phone now) that claims a lot of influence from GG Allin...they've been banned from playing in Shanghai for years despite a lot of their songs being about housekeepers and express delivery and other frivolity. Their cd's get passed around like samizdat. SMZB from Wuhan also gets banned occasionally. They can be political and the untrained ear, they sound like Flogging Molly.

One thing about all these bands is how nice they all are in person. I've been around some pretty pretentious and antagonistic punks in the US and Europe. Every band I met, hung out with, or photographed in China (PK14, Overdose, Angry Jerks, Old Doll, Bleeding Gums, SMZB, Banana Monkey, and many more I'm forgetting) are friendly to a fault, really just into playing music, and willing to do whatever it takes to get more music heard.
posted by msbrauer at 7:03 AM on December 22, 2010 [4 favorites]

The song loses me near the end, but that He Yong song (the Try this link above) has a killer bassline that reminds me a bit of "Libido" by Naked Raygun (and a great guitar sound). I'll be digging into more of this later. Thanks!
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 7:08 AM on December 22, 2010

I saw the Chinese Invasion Tour 2010 when it came through town. Awesome.
posted by battleshipkropotkin at 7:11 AM on December 22, 2010

I saw the completed documentary Beijing Punk (the "long" link above) at Indie Memphis this year, and I highly recommend it.
posted by vibrotronica at 7:51 AM on December 22, 2010

From that list:

Carsick Cars.

They're really, really great. Thanks!
posted by functionequalsform at 8:06 AM on December 22, 2010

Man, this late 90's VHS-recorded basement club Chinese rock scene looks pretty awesome.

I personally find a lot of Chinese rock bands to be pretty wooden imitations of Western rock (and I was surprised to find that that is not an uncommon sentiment in China) and ther are so many of them it's pretty hard to wade though. Thanks for this.

May I also mention The Pillows, who have apparently been around since 1989.
posted by cmoj at 9:04 AM on December 22, 2010

Japanese punk is pretty great too. See: The Blue Hearts.
posted by lubujackson at 9:08 AM on December 22, 2010

May I also mention The Pillows,

The Pillows are Japanese :/ though they are awesome. Them and Boris make up for most of the admittedly small collection of Japanese rock that I have.
posted by dubusadus at 9:30 AM on December 22, 2010

Eh, the Gang Of Four beat 'em to it.

No, wait...
posted by Decani at 10:10 AM on December 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

punk always sounds better in a language i dont understand

I don't know about better, but it doesn't necessarily hurt. Guitar Wolf from Japan is one of my favorite bands, even though I can only understand like 3 or 4 words.

Also am I the only one who prefers the Heartbreakers' version of Chinese Rocks?
posted by Hoopo at 10:28 AM on December 22, 2010

Thank you so much for this post. I've long wondered about China's punk scene, what it's like, if it even existed. I've loved Japanese punk/hardcore/metal/thrash/grind for a long time (Envy, Melt Banana, Fuck On the Beach, Hellchild, Coffins) and it seems to be a super lively scene with a lot of interchange occurring between here (U.S.) and there. So why not in China? The sociopolitical pieces are all there, plus think of how many crusty, dingy punk houses you could have shows in! The possibilities for punk rock in China are seemingly endless.

I'm just waiting for Chinese straight edge youth crew bands to start popping up: xBEIJINGx
posted by auralcoral at 1:40 PM on December 22, 2010

The Pillows are Japanese

Argh. This is mistake I feel bad about, and not only because I would have realized that upon the slightest reflection.
posted by cmoj at 4:26 PM on December 22, 2010

Punk not dead
posted by growabrain at 7:24 PM on December 23, 2010

Also, a few more links for posterity's sake: clips recorded by Punkcast from a live show at PowerHouse Arena in Brookyn last November featuring PK 14, Carsick Cars, and Xiao He. It was to celebrate the publication of Sound Kapital: Beijing's Music Underground by Matthew Niederhauser. A few more photos from the concert.
posted by jng at 9:55 PM on December 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

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